After becoming an instrumental part of FC Barcelona's run to the upcoming Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four, a recent arrival to the club, guard Rokas Jokubaitis, has been chosen as the Rising Star Trophy winner for the 2021-22 season.
Barcelona's Rokas Jokubaitis wins the Rising Star Trophy!
Voted on by EuroLeague head coaches, the Rising Star Trophy recognizes the best player each season who was younger than 22 on July 1 of the previous summer. Jokubaitis, who turned 21 in November, helped Barcelona reach the Final Four by leading all Rising Stars-eligible players with 7.2 points, 2.8 assists and a 7.6 average performance index rating. Jokubaitis shot the lights out from downtown, too, knocking down 59.5% of his three-point shots for the season so far. Depending on his performance at the Final Four, Jokubaitis could become just the second player in history to lead any season with 60.0% or better accuracy from the arc.
The Rising Star Trophy is among several end-of-season honors awarded by Euroleague Basketball. Earlier this week, Vasilije Micic of Anadolu Efes Istanbul was confirmed as the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner and Kyle Hines claimed his third Best Defender Trophy, as voted by the head coaches. The All-EuroLeague First and Second Teams will be announced in the coming days, while the MVP and Coach of the Year are to be revealed at the 2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Awards Ceremony during the Final Four in Belgrade, Serbia, next week.
Jokubaitis is the third FC Barcelona player and the first Lithuanian to win the Rising Star Trophy. He was followed closely in the head coaches' voting by big men Victor Wembanyama of LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne and Marek Blazevic of Zalgiris Kaunas. The ALBA Berlin backcourt duo of Jonas Mattisseck and Malte Delow, Real Madrid guard Carlos Alocen and ASVEL point man Matthew Strazel also received votes.
Jokubaitis followed his first EuroLeague head coach, Sarunas Jasikevicius, from Zalgiris to Barcelona last summer and quickly earned his spot in the rotation, posting 12 points and 6 assists in a season-opening win against ALBA. His steady contributions helped Barcelona hold one of the top two places in the standings throughout the season as Jokubaitis went on to score in double digits in nine of his last 21 regular-season appearances. For the season, Jokubaitis ended up leading all Rising Star candidates not only in PIR, scoring and assists, but also in games played (35) and average minutes (17:04), coming off the bench for all but two of his appearances.
Most remarkably, his three-point shooting this season verges on the historic – and not just for his age group. After making 3 of 8 three-point shots in his first 11 games, Jokubaitis buried 18 of 29 (62.1%) triples in the remaining 19 regular-season appearances. He was even better in the postseason, shooting a playoffs-best 80% (4-for-5) from downtown in Barcelona's 3-2 series win against FC Bayern Munich. All told, Jokubaitis has made 22 of his last 34 attempts (64.7%) heading into the Final Four. Should he make 3 more triples in Belgrade (or 2 playing only one game there), he will become eligible to finish as the season's most accurate three-point shooter with possibly the highest percentage from the arc in EuroLeague history.
This is the fourth EuroLeague season for Jokubaitis after three with his boyhood club, Zalgiris, for whom he made his competition debut in December of 2018 at the age of 18. Jokubaitis helped Zalgiris reach the EuroLeague Playoffs in 2019 and to win three Lithuanian League and two Lithuanian Cup titles. With Lithuanian national teams, he has won a silver medal at the 2016 U16 European Championships and a bronze at the 2017 U18 European Championships.
Jokubaitis joins his current teammate Alex Abrines (2016) and Ricky Rubio (2010) as Rising Star Trophy winners from Barcelona. The first Rising Star award went to Erazem Lorbek of Climamio Bologna in 2005. He was followed by Andrea Bargnani of Benetton Treviso in 2006; Rudy Fernandez of DKV Joventut Badalona in 2007; Danilo Gallinari of Armani Jeans Milano in 2008; Novica Velickovic of Partizan Belgrade in 2009; Rubio in 2010; Nikola Mirotic of Real Madrid in 2011 and 2012; Kostas Papanikolaou of Olympiacos Piraeus in 2013; Bogdan Bogdanovic of Partizan in 2014 and again with Fenerbahce Istanbul in 2015; Abrines in 2016; Luka Doncic of Real in 2017 and 2018; Goga Bitadze of Buducnost VOLI Podgorica in 2019; and Usman Garuba of Real in 2021.