The coveted Rising Star Trophy shines a light on the top young players in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Among the list of future stars who have captured this award can be found the names of Luka Doncic, Nikola Mirotic, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Ricky Rubio. In order to be eligible to win the 2021-22 EuroLeague Rising Star Trophy, a player must have been born on July 1, 1999, or later. Here are the leading candidates to take home the trophy at the end of this season.
5 + 1 midseason awards candidates: Rising Star
Marek Blazevic, Zalgiris Kaunas
Blazevic, 20, was not expected to have a big role for the Lithuanian champs when the season started, but injuries to the frontline opened the door for him and Blazevic busted through. Starting from Round 4, he has played in every game for Zalgiris and played at least 10 minutes in all but four of them. He has been worth 6.5 points on 54.5% two-point shooting and 3.0 rebounds for a PIR of 6.6 this season and those numbers rise to 9.3 points on 60.3% shooting and 3.3 rebounds for a PIR of 10.1 in the 10 games Coach Jure Zdovc lined Blazevic up in the starting five. He leads all Rising-Star eligible players in rebounding.
Rokas Jokubaitis, FC Barcelona
Jokubaitis, 21, was the runner-up in the Rising Star Trophy voting last season and has made an excellent case to bring it home this season. After moving from Zalgiris Kaunas to Barcelona in the summer, Jokubaitis has raised his averages in almost every major statistical category despite playing fewer minutes than before. He has been worth 7.9 points while shooting 57.8% on two-pointers and 57.1% on threes plus 3.1 assists for the team atop the standings. He leads all Rising-Star eligible players in scoring, assists and PIR (8.6).
Filip Petrusev, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Petrusev, 21, made an instant impact with the reigning champs when he scored 17 against Real Madrid on opening night. He started four of the team’s first eight games, though after Bryant Dunston returned from injury in Round 9, Petrusev’s minutes began to dwindle. For the season he is averaging 5.6 points on 60.3% two-point shooting and 1.9 rebounds in a little less than 10 minutes per game. The 2021 Adriatic League MVP remains one of the most talented young big men in Europe and could yet emerge as a dangerous weapon for Efes down the stretch.
Matthew Strazel, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne
Strazel, 19, who received votes for the Rising Star award last season, has been the first guard off the bench for ASVEL this season, spelling the team’s star backcourt of Elie Okobo and Chris Jones. A recent injury to the former saw Strazel get a chance to shine on the road against defending champion Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Round 25 with season-highs of 13 points in 28 minutes. For the season he has averaged 2.7 points and 1.7 assists in 14:56 minutes per game.
Victor Wembanyama, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne
Wembanyama, 18, is considered to be one of the top prospects in all of basketball, though injuries have derailed his first season in the EuroLeague. The 2.20-meter center has been limited to just seven games. However, he has started four of them and in those contests, he’s shown his potential by averaging 6.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 16:08 minutes. As Wembanyama continues to adjust to the highest levels, he figures only to improve and could become a force for ASVEL in the final third of the season.
Sleeper: James Nnaji, FC Barcelona
Nnaji, 17, has played the least of the players on this list, having made just one appearance in the first half of the regular season. However, he has shown Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius that he is ready to step in when needed and that could lead to a much bigger role down the stretch. Nnaji scored 10 points and blocked 5 shots in his Spanish League debut in January and played 15:32 and grabbed 4 rebounds in his lone start this season, in Round 23 against LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne.