12/1/11

The Rogers Medal and Cattalini Cip

MARTIN CATTALINI
Cattalini started his career with the 1993 Wildcats, getting occasional court time backing up the "Wall" of Vlahov,Crawford and Fisher. His average minutes over his 3 years went from 7mpg to 16mpg to 22mpg. During this run he won a championship with the 1995 team, playing a key role as a backup. With the Big 3 not slowing down though, "The Cat" took his talents to Adelaide in the pursuit of more minutes (a la' Stephen Weigh). The 36ers were coached at the time by Mike Dunlap who had had good success with Aussie talent (Blakemore,Maher etc). He figured to blossom here, but ended up playing a similar amount of minutes for the next 2 seasons under Dunlap in '96 and Dave Claxton in '97.

1998 saw the arrival of "The General", Phil Smyth, and it was soon obvious that Cattalini was a perfect fit for Smyth's offense. He made large strides in 1998, earning a starting role in the frontcourt with Paul Rees and Kevin Brooks and his minutes consequently lifted over 10 minutes a game. His scoring output almost doubled, FG and 3PT% increased significantly and he provided the perfect inside/outside game the team needed. He became a 3pt threat under Smyth with his attempts almost tripling in '98, but also took it down low when needed.His rebounding also improved noticeably. Oh and the team won the title.

The team went back-to-back in the 98/99 season with "The Cat" putting up remarkably similar numbers. In 99/00 Cat's minutes increased and so did his numbers, culminating in his first Team MVP award. Catalini lead the team in scoring for the first time and was 2nd in boards, reflecting his continued development. The team though went out in the Semi's, losing to the Titans in 3.

Cat left for Spain in 2000, missing the 00/01 (that's good, he missed the "Lowry" game) and 01/02 seasons (that's bad, the team won the title again). He came back for the 02/02 and 03/04 seasons, winning his 2nd Team MVP in 2004 on the back of a strong year, including his highest scoring average for the team ever at 22.2. The 03/04 season though was the 36ers worst in his time there, culminating in an 8th place finish. He then returned for another stint in Spain, then came back to play for Cairns and then came back to finish his career where it started in Perth.

His last season, 2009/2010, saw his numbers return back to the realm of his early days. He was a more integral part of this team though this time around and by good fortune managed to win a title in his final year, taking his number of championships to 4.

As opposed to Rogers, "The Cat" played his best years in Adelaide, particularly thriving under Smyth who best utilised his skills set. He'll always be one of the fans' most beloved players due to his role in the "back-to-back" teams and for his passion for the game. The last time I saw him on the court in Adelaide was the first game of this season when he was brought out to help a fan hit some long distance shots. The crowd cheered loudly when he ran out, remembering a true champion of the club who was an integral part of the best years of the club (1998-2002) and who played the game with flair,grit and passion- not a package you get very often.

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