Credit: Zuma Press, imago images - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration/A.Zaikauskas
Credit Zuma Press, imago images - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration/A.Zaikauskas

With the end of the year approaching, it's probably the right time to make some evaluations.

Filip Petrusev

Filip  Petrusev
Team: Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Position: C
Age: 21
Height: 210 cm
Weight: 107 kg
Birth place: Belgrade, Serbia

In the last decade, the EuroLeague Rising Star Trophy winners, the award that celebrates the best young player in the competition, have always moved to the NBA and, in general, have become among the best of the best in Europe.

From Nikola Mirotic to Kostas Papanikolaou, from Bogdan Bogdanovic to Alex Abrines, and more recently Luka Doncic, Goga Bitadze, and Usman Garuba. 

So the EuroLeague Rising Star is usually a good indicator of who will be the next big thing in European basketball. What about this season, though? Who's the most likely to win the award? Which young players are surprising? Let's try to find out. 

Rokas Jokubaitis and the next wave of Barcelona youngsters

The Lithuanian point guard is probably the most prominent candidate, as of right now, to win the EuroLeague Rising Star award this season. After being drafted by the New York Knicks, Jokubaitis signed a multi-year deal with Barcelona to work again under coach Sarunas Jasikevicius, who knows him like few others.

So far, Jokubaitis shows that Barcelona made a good decision to sign him, both for the present and the future. The Lithuanian guard averages 7 points, 3.2 assists, and 1.8 rebounds per game in the EuroLeague.

Jokubaitis is shooting the ball effectively, 62% from two-point and 54% from three-point.

It looks like Jokubaitis is not feeling that much the weight of playing for such an ambitious club like Barcelona, and Jasikevicius is getting the best out of him.

Now that the Spanish powerhouse will miss both Nick Calathes and Cory Higgins for a while, the young Lithuanian will be even more important for the team, and his minutes will increase.

Filip Petrusev

Filip  Petrusev
Filip  Petrusev
MIN: 12.11
PTS: 6.92 (65.06%)
REB: 2.46
As: 0.23
ST: 0.08
BL: 0.31
TO: 0.77
GM: 13

During this season, Jokubaitis recorded his career-high in EuroLeague with 15 points and 7 assists against his former team Zalgiris Kaunas. 

But Barcelona's future looks bright not only because of Jokubaitis. Since last season, Sergi Martinez, 22-year-old, has also become a stable rotation member. And a bunch of other young talents has already made their debut in EuroLeague.

Guys like Michael Caicedo, 18, James Nnaji, 17, Augustin Ubal, 18, and Rafa Villar, 17, have been working with the first team and playing some minutes in Jasikevicius' rotations.

For a team like Barcelona, who's not in the best financial situation and dealing with several injuries at the moment, having several players from their youth system being able to be a part of the first team is great news, both for the present and the future.

None of them will compete for the Rising Star award this season, but they bring a lot of hope for the club's future. 

Victor Wembanyama and Matthew Strazel: The ASVEL case

French unicorn Victor Wembanyama was probably the most hyped prospect in the competition before the beginning of the season. Coming from Nanterre, there was a lot of expectation around him, but so far, his EuroLeague debut has been limited by the injuries.

Wembanyama has only played in four EuroLeague games so far, averaging less than 10 minutes per game. However, the season is still pretty long, and with an increased game-time, Wembanyama can show all of his potential.

With his insane length and agility, he remains one of the most intriguing players in the competition, even if his time in the EuroLeague will be short-lived because he'll be draft-eligible in 2023. 

Matthew Strazel, instead, is quickly becoming a very useful piece in the rotations of coach T.J. Parker. Despite being only 19, for Strazel, this is already the third season in EuroLeague, and in several situations, he looked like a proven veteran for his team.

He's shooting well from outside, 42% and his drives to the basket often lead to a pass on the perimeter for an open teammate.

His shots around the basket remain an issue for the moment, considering his low percentages and his limited physical size. Still, Strazel remains a problem for his opponents with his combination of speed, fluidity, and creativity.

If he continues with these types of performances, he will be one of the contenders for the Rising Star trophy.

Vukcevic, Alocen, and Nunez: The Real Madrid trio 

Of the Real Madrid youngsters, Tristan Vukcevic, the son of former basketball player Dusan, probably impressed the most so far.

Our Giorgos Kyriakidis described his game in this way just a few weeks ago "Born in 2003, Vukcevic was already considered one of the top prospects in Europe of his age.

What makes him unique is that he is both a stretch big that can shoot and space the floor, while at the same time he can protect the rim, rising vertically from the ground and not lowering his hands". 

So far, he has played in six games, averaging around 6 minutes per game. His best performance was the one against Zalgiris Kaunas, in which he finished with 7 points and 3 rebounds, also creating one of the best highlights of the season so far with an amazing dunk.

With the return of Anthony Randolph and Trey Thompkins, his playing time will probably be reduced in the coming weeks, which won't help him in the run to the Rising Star Award. 

Carlos Alocen, another one of Real Madrid's top talents, has been limited by the injuries so far. He has missed the last seven games in a row, so his contribution to coach Laso's team has been almost insignificant. 

Juan Nunez, who's only 17-years-old, is an immense talent for Los Blancos. He's a very creative player and a superb passer for his age. He has great body control and dribble moves, and he knows already how to draw attention to himself with his game.

His playing time in EuroLeague, so far, has been limited, but coach Laso loves his potential, and other opportunities will come for the young guard. 

Malte Delow and Jonas Mattiseck: ALBA Berlin's German hopes

Oscar Da Silva is considered too 'old' for the Rising Star award competition, so our focus must turn to German guards Malte Delow, 20, and Jonas Mattiseck, 21.

Delow has already become an important element in coach Gonzales' rotations. Last season he played in 23 games, and in the current one, he's averaging almost 10 minutes per game.

Defensively, he has already shown some great signs and his coach trusts him to stay on key opponents like Shane Larkin or Kostas Papanikoloau. His shooting still needs improvement, but he has already shown that he can be an important element for the team. 

Mattiseck, on the other hand, is averaging even more minutes per game than Delow. In 9 games, he's playing 12 minutes per match, averaging 2.2 points, 1.1 rebounds while shooting 38% from three-point.

He's a very smart player who can read the game effectively. He runs the pick & roll with great vision and has a nice touch from outside. His versatility helps him play in both guard spots. Probably not the most hyped young gun in the competition, but he could be a dark horse in the Rising Star award run. 

Filip Petrusev's case

Anadolu Efes' young big man Filip Petrusev is having his debut season in EuroLeague after dominating the ABA League in the past season.

Selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 50th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Petrusev is already showing some great flashes of offensive talent in the competition.

In his debut game against Real Madrid, he scored 17 points in 16 minutes. He can score in many different ways and has very educated hands. Defensively, though, he's struggling a lot to adjust to the EuroLeague's speed and physicality.

He still needs time to become a reliable player on that end, and in several games coach Ataman has limited his playing time, especially for his lack of defensive awareness. But so far, he has probably been the biggest threat to Rokas Jokubaitis' hopes in winning the Rising Star award. 

Zalgiris’ finest: Marek Blazevic

20-years-old big man Marek Blazevic is playing his second EuroLeague season with Zalgiris Kaunas. The Lithuanian big man has a bigger role this season, averaging 6.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in almost 13 minutes per game.

Gifted with a combination of strength, mobility, and a soft touch around the rim, Blazevic is showing an interesting potential as an interior scorer. Defensively, he's a very active player and he always tries to help his teammates with extra rotations and multiple efforts.

He might not be the favorite for the Rising Star award, but he'll definitely get some consideration as his performances are constantly improving in the past few weeks. 

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Very good stuff. Easy to read.
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