Euroleague Basketball is pleased to announce that Rolands Smits of Montakit Fuenlabrada has been chosen as the winner of the 2016-17 7DAYS EuroCup Rising Star Trophy. The 21-year-old forward had a breakout season in his second full campaign at the professional level for the club he joined as a 16-year old from his native Latvia. 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. Smits, who will turn 22 in June, played a vital part in Fuenlabrada’s season during which the team remained in the playoff race until the final quarter of its final Top 16 game. Playing in all of Fuenlabrada’s 14 games and starting in half of them, Smits scored his team’s third-most points, grabbed the third-most rebounds, had the third-highest accumulated performance index rating and the fourth-most steals on the club. He finished the season having made at least 1 three-pointer in 11 consecutive games, and no player in the entire competition with at least 40 attempts for each two and three pointers shot the ball as well as Smits did in the EuroCup this season.
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 the completion of the finals series. Smits 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, two-time winner Bojan Dubljevic of Valencia Basket, Kristaps Porzingis of Baloncesto Seville, and last year’s award winner Mateusz Ponitka of Stelmet Zielona Gora.
Smits averaged 9.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 0.9 assists per EuroCup contest. The young forward made 60.4% of his two-point attempts and sank 48.8% of his three-point tries, which was seventh best in the competition. No other qualified player shot above 60% for two-pointers and 45% for threes this season. Smits had his first double-digit EuroCup game in a crucial Regular Season Round 6 home win over ALBA Berlin with 15 points. He followed that with a career-high 21 points on 5-for-6 three point shooting at Khimki Moscow Region and with a 14-point, 6-rebound performance at REATbet Bilbao Basket in Round 9. As his playing time deservingly increased, Smits scored in double figures twice more during the Top 16, netting 15 in big home win over Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas, and 10 points in a dramatic home loss against Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. Among the Rising Star eligible players, Smits accumulated the highest total index rating (113), scored the most points (131) and had the highest points per game average prorated over 40 minutes (17.03). He was ranked in the top five among all Rising Star candidates in total rebounds, offensive rebounds, assists, steals and two-point and three-point shots made, too.
"This does not happen everyday, and it will help me keep working hard and move forward. Even when it is an individual award, I was able to get it thanks to the work of my teammates and coaches, not only this season, but also in previous ones. They helped me grow as a player," Smits said about the award. "The next time I see Kristaps Porzingis, I can tell him I was also chosen as the EuroCup Rising Star, just like he was two years ago. The most important thing is that hard work is paying off. Now, I have to keep working hard to improve every day."