by Joseph Quirk ’23
As Friar fans, we have a special appreciation for former basketball players who are recognized for their talent. This past year, former Friars standout Bryce Cotton ’14 won his second National Basketball League MVP award overseas in Australia. So how did he get to this point, and what has he done to become one of the elite players in Australia’s best basketball league?
Cotton started his professional career in the NBA with the Utah Jazz. However, his time with them was brief. In the 2014-2015 season, Cotton played 14 games with the Jazz before finishing the season with the Austin Spurs, the San Antonio Spurs G-League (at the time still known as the D-League) affiliate. Cotton proved to be not ready for the big leagues just yet. While he did average about six points per game and a rebound and assist each with Utah, his average line would turn from 5-1-1 to 22-5-5 when he got to Austin.
The 2015-2016 season was even more tumultuous for Cotton, but he kept grinding. Cotton would spend limited time with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball League, the Austin Spurs, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Phoenix Suns. It would be one of his worse years since going pro, only averaging above 20 points in his two games in China. The lack of stability severely affected him and his play.
Over the next two seasons, Cotton would bounce around more, spending time in several different leagues, including his first stint in the NBL with the Perth Wildcats.
In 2017, Cotton would finally be rewarded with what he was lacking: a more permanent and stable home. Over the last two seasons, Cotton has been tearing up not only the premier basketball league in Australia, but one of the best in the world.
The NBL is a known source of NBA talent and even this past season some of the top NBA prospects, most notably LaMelo Ball, joined the league as opposed to going to college.
Cotton has been averaging 23 points, four assists, and four rebounds for the Wildcats. He is the eighth American player to play 100 games for Perth, the franchise’s first two-time MVP, and the first player in NBL history to lead the league in points and steals.
During his second MVP campaign, Wildcats head coach Trevor Gleeson said, “He’s on the whiteboard of every team that comes here, to stop.”
He added, “What he puts up with, gets double teamed, hit defensively all the time and he still produces under pressure… and he’s unselfish.” Gleeson also expressed his surprise when Cotton did not win the award in the 2018-2019 season, during which all his numbers improved from his first MVP campaign.
During his acceptance speech, Cotton made sure to comment first on his fellow competitors for the award and his teammates. Upon arriving back with his team, Cotton said, “It feels good to be recognized for the work you do. There were a lot of great contestants for the award but I’m glad to be holding the trophy.”
Now, while getting buckets has been a big part of the MVP’s game, it is not his entire focus.
“Take out the scoring and I’ve improved in all other categories, especially defense, which was a big focus,” said Cotton.
And while the ceremony was just a little more than a week ago, Cotton has his eyes on the prize. “I’m definitely excited, this is the best part of the year. Your main goal is to be the last one standing.”
Cotton and the Wildcats currently find themselves in the semifinals against the Cairns Taipans with the series tied at one game apiece. Cotton scored 42 points in an overtime victory in game one. The decisive third game will be Thursday, March 5.