Torrey Craig will wage his own private battle for a major personal triumph as the Brisbane Bullets look to finish their NBL campaign on a high note against the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong Saturday night.
Going into the final round of matches Craig leads the League with 207 rebounds.
The only player within striking distance of the Bullets swingman is Hawks big man Andrew Ogilvy. He had 204.
Ogilvy, who led the League in rebounding in 2013-14 playing with the Sydney Kings and again last season playing with the Hawks, has come with a barnstorming charge late in the season.
He has had 10-11-10-10 rebounds in his last four games, including three ‘double doubles’ in which he’s had double figures in rebounds and points.
Craig, who has lead the League rebounding count since he had 17 boards in game two of the season against Sydney, has posted 2-8-6-7 in his rebound column in the same period to leave the door ajar for the 211cm Hawks giant.
So, if there is a little sub-message from Craig to his teammates Saturday night it might just be ‘I wouldn’t mind if you boxed out the big bloke wearing #6”.
.@TCraig_23 goes coast to coast for the hoop and harm.
— NBL (@NBL) January 21, 2017
Craig also leads Ogilvy in the battle for most total defensive rebounds. Craig had 150 going into Round 19 and Ogilvy 146.
Craig, with 57 offensive rebounds, ranked 6th on the glass at the opposite end behind Perth’s Jameel McKay (80), New Zealand’s Alex Pledger (72), Melbourne’s Majok Majok (64), Adelaide’s Matthew Hodgson (64) and Ogilvy (58).
Craig, averaging 7.67 rebounds per game, ranks 2nd in the League in average boards behind late-season Melbourne United pick-up Josh Boone. The former NBA star has averaged 8.70 rebounds in 10 games.
As the League’s extraordinary play-off reaches a thrilling climax Craig is in line for a top 10 finish in five other statistical categories.
Going into Round 19 he had scored 395 points to rank 7th in the League. He was also 6th in steals and blocks, 3rd in minutes played and 2nd in personal fouls.
Mitch Young, shooting at 58.8% from the field this year, is 3rd in the League, while teammate Dan Kickert (55.8%) is 8th.
Kickert also ranks 10th in three-point shooting percentages at 46.7% and leads the League in foul shooting among players who have taken a minimum 30 shots.
The sharp-shooting big man has made 56-59 at the charity stripe at 94.9%.
— NBL (@NBL) January 15, 2017
Three other Bullets players are in the top 10 for foul-shooting – injured guard Adam Gibson (94.3%) is 2nd, Shaun Bruce (86.3%) is 6th and Tom Jervis (86.0%) is 8th.
Gibson is also 7th in total assists despite missing the last six games.
The Bullets can put a major dint in the Hawks’ championship aspirations if they can spring an upset Saturday night.
While a home team win will guarantee a play-off berth, and possibly 2nd spot and home court advantage in the play-offs, a Bullets win could see them slide all the way to 6th.
Critically for the Hawks, they have lost potential tie-breaker series with Cairns, Perth and Sydney.
After Cairns beat ladder leaders Adelaide Thursday night, albeit with the 36ers taking the opportunity to rest key players, just one win separates six teams chasing the last three play-off berths.
Illawarra (14-13) and Cairns (14-13) have their fate in their own hands, while Melbourne (13-13) and Perth (13-13) have one extra game in hand on New Zealand (13-14) and Sydney (13-14).
In other games in Round 19, Cairns play Adelaide away, Perth play Sydney at home and Melbourne away, and New Zealand host Melbourne.
In meetings between the Bullets and the Hawks this season, the Hawks prevailed 98-88 and 91-85 in Brisbane, and 85-80 in Wollongong.
Rotnei Clarke has been the Hawks leading scorer against the Bullets with 56 from hauls of 24-12-20, while Nick Kay (13-14-16) also has topped double-figures each time the teams have met.
The injured Gibson has been the Bullets leading scorer against the Hawks with 46 (16-13-17), while Kickert has had 41 (13-8-20).
Jeremy Kendle, who has impressed with the Bullets following a late season call-up, will play against the Hawks for the first time.