The CQUniversity Cairns Taipans had another tremendous NBL season against the odds to make the Finals from second position, and there were plenty of players honoured at the club’s Awards Night.
The Taipans finished off the 2016/17 NBL season winning the last three games, six of the last seven and eight of the last 11 to end up on a 15-13 record to claim second position at the end of the regular season.
While the eventual champion Perth Wildcats got the better of the semi-final series, it was a season to be proud of for the Taipans.
By the end, Mark Worthington retired, Cam Gliddon had led well from the front again, Alex Loughton and Stephen Weigh provided good leadership, Jarrad Weeks and Mitch McCarron made immediate impacts, Nate Jawai returned home, Damon Heuir kept developing, Nnanna Egwu won over the Orange Army, Travis Trice showed his brilliance and Tony Mitchell provided a spark.
There was plenty to like about what the Taipans of 2016/17 achieved and that was celebrated at the Awards Night.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER – TRAVIS TRICE
Travis Trice arrived in Cairns on the back of his Michigan State career and a season in the NBA D-League with the Westchester Knicks.
He was slowed early on by injury and would miss another four-game patch in the first half of the season, but once he got rolling he provided the Snakes with exactly the sort of dynamic scoring ability they were hoping for.
Travis delivered a host of match-winning performances for the Taipans including 28 points in the home opening win over Melbourne. In his second game back from injury, he was again on fire with 31 points in the November 27 home win over the New Zealand Breakers.
He backed that up with 24 points in another win over Brisbane a week later before finding some good consistency down the home stretch highlighted by a 27-point, five-assist haul against the Bullets.
He finished up going for 14.3 points, 3.4 assists and 3.0 rebounds a game in a league that featured some remarkable guards. He more than held his own and deservedly took home the MVP award.
Travis continued the tradition of point guards taking out the Taipans’ MVP with Ayinde Ubaka, Jamar Wilson (twice) and Scottie Wilbekin joining him as winners in the past seven years. Only captain Cam Gliddon has broken the trend.
MEMBERS’ CHOICE MVP – MARK WORTHINGTON
It might have been the last season of his decorated career in the NBL and for Australia, but Mark Worthington gave his all for the Taipans and was rewarded with the Members’ Choice MVP award as voted on by the Orange Army.
Wortho showed no signs that his game was slowing down despite his impending retirement, and it wasn’t a sentimental vote by the fans – he took out this award because his performances on the court warranted it.
Despite a shoulder injury that he continued to battle through, Wortho continued to give his all for Cairns ending up averaging 9.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists to continue to be one of the most productive all-round players in the NBL.
He had a season-high of 22 points along with six boards and four assists against his former Sydney Kings team but it was his overall performances and leadership that stood out before retiring after the semi-final loss in Perth after 333 NBL appearances.
It was fitting that his final two seasons were in Cairns after that’s where his career began as a development before he headed to college at Metro State.
PLAYERS PLAYER AWARD – DAMON HEUIR
This award is presented to the player in the team that best demonstrates the team values and trademarks on and off the court. What makes this award so special is that is voted on only by the playing group. Most importantly the winner is held in the highest regard by his peers when representing the team.
The winner for the 2016/17 season is Damon Heuir as his players took notice of the efforts he continued to put in to make himself an NBL player, and he worked tremendously hard every single day to be ready for any opportunities that came his way.
And they did come throughout the season with Damon making the most of it with his career-high of 15 points against the Brisbane Bullets at home on November 13. He also had 12 points against the Illawarra Hawks while hitting the floor on 18 occasions on his way to hitting the 41-game mark in his career.
COMMITMENT TO THE COMMUNITY – MITCH McCARRON
Commitment to the Community is the Award that identifies the most enthusiastic, committed and dedicated player to community events, sponsor activations and club promotions.
They embody what the club represents and take responsibility for serving the Taipans and the Cairns community They always hold themselves to a high standard in attitude, commitment, personal appearance and demeanour when it comes to all of their commitments.
The winner for this season is Mitch McCarron. Not only did he return to Australia from his college career at Metro State and then a season in Spain to deliver on the court for the Taipans, but he set standards off the floor and in the community.
Mitch became an instant favourite both at games with the Orange Army but in the Cairns community and everyone is excited that he will be back in 2017/18.
COACHES AWARD – NNANNA EGWU
Nnanna Egwu’s work ethic, basketball IQ and team first attitude are attributes that very rarely show up on a stat sheet or in a highlight video.
But it is these qualities that are often most integral for a teams success. Nnanna has epitomised hard work, dedication and team first mentality which sees him rewarded as this years Coaches Award winner.
Nnanna was in his first season outside of the US and second as a professional, and quickly showed he was a man of the highest character and a player with remarkable work ethic.
Nnanna epitomises what it means to be a team player with his relentless competitiveness and being a vocal communicator on the floor. His attitude towards learning the game and developing his skills made him highly coachable while he prides himself on his defence and is an intimidating presence at the rim.
CLUB PERSON OF THE YEAR – TOM MAHER
Towards the end of the regular season, coaching staff, playing group, admin staff and also Board members can nominate individuals/volunteers/service providers to the club. Nominations are collated with a recommendation provided to the Board, that do final sign off on the winner considering the factors of commitment, service and tenure.
The 2016/17 Club Person of the Year is Tom Maher from Cairns Total Physio.
Due to the compression of the fixtures, back-to-back games and long travel endured by the Taipans this season, Tom Maher went over and above what was required of him – working around the clock – to ensure players had the proper recovery and care throughout the season on the road and at home.