Euroleague Basketball is pleased to announce Mateusz Ponitka of Stelmet Zielona Gora as the winner of the 2015-16 Eurocup Rising Star Trophy. The 22-year-old forward enjoyed a breakout season in what was his third in the competition after two years with Telenet Ostend. After joining Zielona Gora over the summer, he helped the Polish champs reach the Eurocup Quarterfinals for the first time in club history by ousting Unics Kazan in the eighthfinals. Zielona Gora did not lose a Eurocup game on the road all season. The Eurocup Rising Star Trophy recognizes the most outstanding player in the competition who was younger than 22 years of age on July 1 of the summer before the season started. Ponitka, who will turn 23 in August, had already showcased his skills in the competition, but this season posted career-best averages in points, rebounds, assists, steals and performance index ranking. Ponitka did it all for Zielona Gora, leading his team in scoring (13.5 ppg.), rebounding (6.5 rpg.), fouls drawn (4 per game) and performance index rating (17.3 PIR), which made him a perfect choice as the 2015-16 Eurocup Rising Star!
The Rising Star Trophy is part of an expanded awards structure launched before the 2008-09 season to enhance the recognition of the finest Eurocup players for their efforts on the basketball court throughout the season. Apart from the Eurocup Rising Star, Euroleague Basketball and its in-house experts also select the Eurocup Coach of the Year, the All-Eurocup First and Second Teams and the Eurocup MVP. The Eurocup Finals MVP will be announced following Game 2 of the finals. Ponitka joins a select list of Rising Star trophy winners that also includes Victor Claver of Power Electronics Valencia, Milan Macvan of Hemofarm Vrsac, Donatas Motiejunas of Benetton Basket Bwin, Jonas Valanciunas of Lietuvos Rytas, Bojan Dubljevic of Valencia Basket, the only player to win the trophy twice, and Kristaps Porzingis of Baloncesto Seville.
Ponitka and Zielona Gora joined the 2015-16 Eurocup in the Last 32 after the forward shined in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season, in which he averaged 12 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 10 games for a performance index average of 17.9. Once in the Eurocup, Ponitka helped Zielona Gora win right away, by tallying 14 points and 6 rebounds in a road triumph against MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg. He flirted with a triple double - 13 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists - in a game against Umana Reyer Venice. Ponitka posted a career-best index rating of 27 with 18 points and 9 rebounds in a road win against Zenit St Petersburg, posted 16 points and 9 rebounds in the rematch against Ludwigsburg and shined with 12 points and 12 rebounds in his team’s do-or-die win in Venice, which sent Zielona Gora to the eighthfinals. Ponitka ranked 13th in PIR in the Last 32 with an average of 19.7; the closest Rising Star eligible player to Ponitka in the standings was Isaac Fotu of CAI Zaragoza at 12.9 per game. Ponitka also ranked seventh in rebounds (8.3 rpg.). Zielona Gora went on to face might Unics Kazan in the eighthfinals and Ponitka brought out his best basketball by averaging 19.5 points on 14-for-18 two-point shots and 3 of 5 three-pointers to lead his team to an epic come-from-behind win. Ponitka finished his Eurocup season with 13.5 points on excellent shooting percentages (58.8% 2FG, 47.6% 3FG), 6.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals and posted an index rating of at least 15 in eight of his 10 Eurocup appearances.