One of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague's most experienced young stars anchored his team's push into the highest echelon of the standings during the last month. In so doing, Olympiacos Piraeus forward Sasha Vezenkov has earned Euroleague Basketball's nod as MVP of February.
MVP of February: Sasha Vezenkov, Olympiacos Piraeus
Vezenkov led the Reds in both scoring and performance index rating as they won three out of four games during the month to rise out of sixth place, amid a pack of playoff aspirants, to stake a claim for fourth place, the last one that comes with home-court advantage in the playoffs. With a combination of stellar shooting and rebounding, Vezenkov led the Reds in PIR in three of their February games. His steadiness in surpassing 15 points and 16 PIR in every game was just what the Reds needed to overcome a difficult start to 2022 and solidify their position before the closing stretch of the playoff race.
The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 17th season. Although statistics 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 during the month in question. Vezenkov, 26, can celebrate not only the first monthly MVP award of his seven-season EuroLeague career, but also the first by any Olympiacos player since his teammate Georgios Printezis was MVP for April back in 2015.
As February dawned, Olympiacos was suffering a three-game losing streak and had not won in the EuroLeague since December 23, 2021. Its first game was on the road against then-leader Real Madrid, but despite Vezenkov's 16 points, 6 rebounds and 20 PIR while missing just 1 three-pointer among all his shots, Olympiacos lost again, 75-67. The Reds righted their ship just 48 hours later, in Round 25, though still on the road against Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, as Vezenkov had 15 points, 3 assists and 2 steals for a team-high PIR of 18 in a 62-72 victory. Back home against surging Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Round 26, an overtime thriller ended with the Reds winning 87-85 on a buzzer-beater by Kostas Sloukas after Vezenkov had contributed 16 points and a team-high 8 rebounds. The month ended with Olympiacos sweeping third-place AX Armani Exchange Milan with a 67-58 home win in which Vezenkov had a team-high PIR of 20 based on his 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
Vezenkov's wealth of experience at a young age, with almost 175 EuroLeague appearances already, was apparent throughout February as he averaged 34:31 minutes of court time for a defense that gave up just 70.0 points per game through 17 quarters. In all that time, he committed just 5 turnovers while making 16 of his 20 two-point shots (80.0%) and 12 of 15 free throws (86.6%) for the month. The Olympiacos fans are sure to show their appreciation for such solid and timely performances when Vezenkov receives his award at an upcoming home game.