With their 103-97 win over the Austin Toros on Friday night, the Santa Cruz Warriors have come out of the NBADL semi-finals victorious, and will be heading to the D-League Finals.
The team's impressive run has been highlighted by their immense amount of depth from top to bottom all season long, but two specific individuals recently received recognition for the very efforts that helped propel Santa Cruz to the squad's current point of success.
Over the past few days, the NBA D-League has begun to distribute year-end awards for special achievement, and thus, both Santa Cruz's Stefhon Hannah and Cameron Jones have been honored, respectively.
After a promising rookie season in 2011-12 with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Jones was forced to prove his worth all over again by beginning this past season with Santa Cruz. It may have taken the guard a few games to get into a new groove and convince the Warriors he has what it takes to handle major minutes, but once he began to succeed, he never looked back.
Jones averaged 12.6 points (on 48% shooting from the field), 2.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals through 50 contests for Santa Cruz. His stat-line from last season to this one saw subtle improvements in a variety of categories, including field goal percentage, rebounds, assists, and steals.
Such improvements may not have been drastic, but they were consistent across the board. What's more, he made his presence felt by making an important impact, playing well within the Warriors' system. He also stepped up big time in the absence of Travis Leslie, who had been called up by the Jazz earlier in the year.
While Jones' impact was more obviously felt more in bunches and on a "need to have" basis, Hannah on the other hand, served as nothing less than the anchor of the Warriors' defense for the second year in a row. As such, the floor general earned his second consecutive "Defensive Player of the Year" award.
Hannah is a pestering defender who likes to fluster opposing point guards by applying tight pressure and cutting off the passing lanes. Things start with Hannah on the defensive end, as by contesting the opponent's ball handler, he sets the tone for the rest of the Warriors' squad. He ranked in the league's top five in steals with 2 per game this season.
Both players have been key members of this Warriors' squad all season long. Their impacts have, without a doubt, been fell over the last few months, as each one has played an important role in helping Santa Cruz earn a spot in the NBA D-League Finals. Both are deserving of such awards for their efforts.