NEWCASTLE’S Suzy Batkovic was rewarded for a remarkable season when she was named the Women’s National Basketball League’s Most Valuable Player in Melbourne last night.
The 31-year-old centre was the hot favourite to take the gong after leading Adelaide Lightning to the minor premiership with league-best averages in scoring (24.3), rebounds (10.9) and steals (2.5).
The 192-centimetre, a two-time Olympic Games silver medallist with Australia, also set a career high in assists.
But the former Seattle Storm player’s dominance was not enough to lift Adelaide to the major title. They were eliminated 91-78 by eventual champions Dandenong Rangers in the preliminary final.
But her performances make her a certainty to be part of the Opals’ quest for an Olympic gold medal in London this year.
Moving to Adelaide after an injury-interrupted 2010-11 campaign in Canberra, Batkovic was unstoppable in attack and invaluable in defence.
Fellow Newcastle product Jenni Screen joined Batkovic at Adelaide this season and both have signed to stay with the Lightning for 2013.
Batkovic was an obvious choice for the all-star five, which she made for the second time.
She joined Kath MacLeod (Dandenong), Belinda Snell (Sydney Uni Flames), Samantha Richards (Bulleen Boomers), Shanavia Dowdell (Townsville Fire) and Rachel Jarry (Bulleen Boomers) in the honour side.
Meanwhile, another Newcastle product, Perth Wildcats guard Damian Martin, starred at the National Basketball League awards held in conjunction with the women’s function.
Martin joined elite company when he was named the NBL’s Best Defensive Player of the Year for the second season in a row.
He became the eighth player in NBL history to win the award more than once, joining the likes of Phil Smyth, Darnell Mee, Mike Kelly, Darren Lucas and former Newcastle Falcons forward Terry Dozier.
Martin averaged 2.2 steals and 3.8 defensive rebounds a game this season. He also averaged 0.9 blocks a match.
Martin is the only Perth Wildcats player to win the defensive honour.
? All-star guard Joe Johnson scored eight of his 37 points in the fourth period of overtime as the Atlanta Hawks overcame Utah 139-133 on Sunday in the NBA’s longest game in nearly 15 years.
Playing their third game in three days, the Hawks won their fourth straight.