New Zealand Breakers star shooting guard Kirk Penney has been named the winner of the Andrew Gaze Trophy as the National Basketball League’s Most Valuable Player for the 2008/09 season, becoming the first New Zealander ever to win the NBL’s top award.

Penney registered 92 votes to narrowly take out the award from Sydney Spirit big man Matthew Knight on 90.  Melbourne Tigers’ Nigerian import Ebi Ere came third with 89 votes, while Mark Worthington of the South Dragons (87) and Shawn Redhage of the Perth Wildcats (86) rounded out the top five in an extremely tight race.

Penney, who previously played for the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers in the American NBA, averaged 24.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 28  regular season games for the Breakers in 2008/09.  He shot the ball at 45.6% from the field, 37.3% from three-point territory and 80.4% from the free-throw line.

The Tall Blacks star also led his team to their best-ever season, helping the Breakers to the Semi-Finals for the first time in club history.

Whilst Penney was delighted with the award, he was also disappointed that the Breakers’ season ended with a 2-0 sweep at the hands of the Melbourne Tigers.

“We, the players and coaches, definitely had a bit of a sour taste in how we lost to the Tigers. We felt like we should have played better and had a chance of winning the series,” Penney said of the award.

“I guess it is a little [bittersweet] because you want to win a championship, and they’re the memories that never leave you. But as a personal accolade it’s just a huge honour.”

Voting for the MVP award is conducted following each regular season game by the coaching staffs of each team, with the player amassing the most votes at the end of the season being declared the winner.

The NBL’s MVP award is named after Melbourne Tigers great Andrew Gaze, with the trophy being a specially commissioned sculpture of Gaze in action.