Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic coasts to EuroLeague Rising Star crown

EuroLeague
Photo: EuroLeague

After putting together one of the greatest seasons by a teenager in European basketball history, Luka Doncic of Real Madrid was the unanimous choice of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague head coaches to win the EuroLeague Rising Star Trophy for the 2016-17 season. The Rising Star Trophy recognizes the best EuroLeague player each season who was under the age of 22 on July 1 of the summer before the season started. After making his debut in the competition and becoming a regular time contributor with Madrid a year ago, Doncic made the transformation into true EuroLeague star despite only turning 18 years of age during the course of this season. Not only did Doncic become the youngest player to ever claim MVP of the Round honors, he went on to do so four times this season, which was second most in the competition, as he helped lead Los Blancos to the Final Four next week in Istanbul.

Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul center Ante Zizic was second in the voting, while Marko Guduric of Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and Ilimane Diop of Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz tied for the third-most votes. The Rising Star Trophy is one of several end-of-season honors awarded by Euroleague Basketball. Earlier in the week, Unics Kazan guard Keith Langford was named the recipient of the 2016-17 Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy and Adam Hanga of Baskonia was selected as Best Defender Trophy winner. The All-EuroLeague honorees will be announced later this week. The identity of the 2016-17 EuroLeague MVP will be revealed at the Final Four, between May 18 and 21 in Istanbul. The Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy and the EuroLeague Club Executive of the Year are post-season awards.

A native of Slovenia, Doncic joined Madrid in 2012 as a 13-year old and basketball eyes have been trained on him ever since. He thrived at the junior levels and was named MVP of the 2015 ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Finals after leading Madrid to the title. That season also saw Doncic become the youngest player in club history to make his professional debut. After playing his first EuroLeague game in the 2015-16 season opener, Doncic played well beyond his age this season in earning the moniker of teenage sensation.

Doncic is more than just a skilled guard; all season he proved how high his basketball IQ is. Against the best players on the continent, he flirted with triple-doubles several times. Doncic fought for every ball and showed the ability to generate for others and create his own shots. He did not only stand out among Rising Star candidates, but also among the entire field of players in 2016-17 EuroLeague season. When he was called on, Doncic showed he could decide dramatic games with clutch baskets, showing no fear with added pressure on his shoulders. Despite playing more than 26 minutes in a game only once during the regular season and averaging less than 20 minutes per game over the entire season, Doncic was the only player in the EuroLeague this season to average more than 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game. His numbers entering the Final Four stand at 8.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He ranked second on Madrid in assists, tied for second in steals (0.9 spg.) and was third in both rebounding and performance index rating (13.9 per game). Doncic took his game up a level when Madrid needed him in the playoffs; he started Games 3 and 4 of the team’s series against Darussafaka in Istanbul and claimed MVP honors in each game, leading Madrid to a 3-1 series victory and a Final Four berth. Among his best performances were 17 points – including 8 of his team’s final 10 – in a 96-91 victory over Zalgiris Kaunas in Round 11; a near triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists for an index rating of 32 against Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv to earned the title of MVP for Round 17; and 11 assists in a come-from-behind road win over Unics Kazan in Round 22.

Doncic becomes the second player to earn the EuroLeague Rising Star Trophy while playing for Madrid; Nikola Mirotic claimed back-to-back Rising Star Trophies in 2011 and 2012. Madrid guard Rudy Fernandez is also a former EuroLeague Rising Star; he won the award in 2007 with DKV Joventut Badalona. Erazem Lorbek was the inaugural Euroleague Rising Star in 2005 with Climamio Bologna. He was followed by Andrea Bargnani of Benetton Treviso in 2006; Fernandez in 2007; Danilo Gallinari of Armani Jeans Milano in 2008; Novica Velickovic of Partizan Belgrade in 2009; and Ricky Rubio of FC Barcelona in 2010. After Mirotic won the award twice, Kostas Papanikolaou took the 2013 award with Olympiacos Piraeus, before Bogdan Bogdanovic, was named Rising Star the following two years, once with Partizan and once with Fenerbahce Istanbul. Alex Abrines of FC Barcelona Lassa won the Rising Star Trophy last season.

Source: EuroLeague.net