It has been seven years since Union Olimpija started a Euroleague season with two victories and the same amount of time since the pride of Ljubljana reached the Top 16. Basketball fever never left the Slovenian capital, but this week it will reach some of its highest temperatures ever, with the new 13,000-seat Stozice Arena sold out a week in advance of Olimpija's showdown Thursday with Panathinaikos for first place in Group D of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season. One man who has everything to do with Olimpija's early-season resurgence is Goran Jagodnik, who is Euroleague Basketball's choice as Sportingbet MVP for October. Having returned to Slovenia this season after 11 years abroad, the 35-year-old forward has made his a homecoming to remember so far. Jagodnik's scoring late in the team's opening game helped Olimpija pull out an inspirational double-overtime victory against mighty Efes Pilsen before 9,000 pumped-up fans at home in Ljubljana. Last week, Jagodnik again saved his best for last, with 12 points in the final 11 minutes of another comeback, this time to beat Armani Jeans Milano in what was Olimpija's first Euroleague road win in 21 months. Among players on the seven teams undefeated through two games, Jagodnik ranks first in scoring with 20 points per game and second in performance index rating with 18.5 on average. He concentrated those great stats into late-game heroics that unexpectedly have Olimpija as a group co-leader, making Goran Jagodnik a more-than-logical Sportingbet MVP for October!
The Sportingbet MVP of the Month honor has entered its seventh season. Although statistics and performance ratings are taken into consideration for the award, they alone do not determine who is honored. The winner is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his and his team's performance. The award for October was decided based on the two Regular Season games played during that month by all 24 teams. Sportingbet, a Euroleague Basketball partner, is the sponsor of the MVP of the Month award. Just as the best Euroleague player each month combines performance and leadership for success, so does Sportingbet's sponsorship communicate its conviction to be the best betting brand in European basketball.
The first Turkish Airlines Euroleague game at Stozice Arena to open the new season for Olimpija was a historic event in itself for the basketball-loving fans of Ljubljana. They responded in great numbers, almost 9,000 diehards who were rewarded with just the third-ever double-overtime Euroleague game since 2000. Olimpija trailed Efes by 40-47 in the third quarter when Jagodnik's first three-point shot started a comeback that he completed with another bomb on the third-quarter buzzer, good for a 53-55 lead. At the end of the fourth quarter, Jagodnik expertly made a free throw and purposefully missed the second, which Kevinn Pinkney rebounded to tie the score 71-71 and force overtime. The first OT ended with Jagodnik making a last-second shot just a shade late of the buzzer. But in the second OT, he made sure with 6 points in the last 2 minutes to give the crowd, on its feet all this time, a 95-90 victory to celebrate. On the road in Week 2 at Milano, host Armani Jeans opened up double-digit leads early in the second half and stayed ahead until Jagodnik's 6 points in 2 minutes put Olimpija in command heading into the final quarter. Twice after that when Milano cut the difference to a point, Jagodnik scored for Olimpija and his pair of free throws in the final seconds were insurance for the team's first road win since January of 2009. That time, Olimpija was already eliminated from the Top 16. This time, it has a 2-0 record in a much shorter regular season, 10 games, giving the team a momentum it has not enjoyed for quite a while.
Jagodnik finished October having made 63.6% of his two-point shots, 45.5% of three-pointers and 84.6% of his free throws. Not bad for the oldest monthy MVP in the seven-season history of the award! If he can maintain numbers close to those, the sky is the limit for the Sportingbet October MVP and Olimpija. To enjoy their great start together with the fans in Ljubljana, Jagodnik will receive his award at an upcoming Union Olimpija home game.