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ULEB Cup regular season MVP: Milan Gurovic, Crvena Zvezda
Jan 18, 2007
Even after three months full of great performances by many players, it came as no surprise which of them outranked all others to the ULEB Cup's regular season MVP honor: Milan Gurovic of Crvena Zvezda. The sweet-shooting former world champion forward, now 31 and leading a youthful C. Zvezda team, outdid himself - not to mention all other scorers on the continent in recent memory - with his record-breaking point production in the competition's opening phase. With 270 points in 10 games, Gurovic posted records for the highest scoring total and average in any of the five regular seasons played so far in the ULEB Cup. What's more, no player in either the ULEB Cup or the Euroleague has finished a regular season with a higher scoring average this decade. Gurovic's scoring brilliance was evident from the start of the season - and perhaps even sooner. As he led C. Zvezda to the ULEB Cup's only undefeated mark through five games, Gurovic posted three of his highest four single-game scoring totals in European competition, with 35 or 34 points three different times. His previous high in European competition, aslo 35 points, came in the ULEB Cup quarterfinal game that eliminated C. Zvezda last season. Gurovic and C. Zvezda will be back for another try at the elimination rounds this season, starting with the eighthfinals on January 30.
"I am very proud of this recognition as the MVP of the regular season and I just have to say thank you to my teammates and my coach for giving me the opportunity to do everything I was able to do," Gurovic told ULEBcup.com. "I am very happy with what Crvena Zvezda has done this season so far, finishing third in a tough group behind Real Madrid and Unics Kazan. That was our objective before the season, to finish third, and we were able to accomplish it.
"It's true that this year I started scoring big from the start. I won't say that putting in a lot of points doesn't interest me, but what interests me more is the team's success. If I score 50 points and the team loses, what I did is worth nothing. Only when the team wins can you be happy. We have a team with many young guys of 19 or 20 years old. At 31, I am the oldest on the team. So yes, I have more responsibility than the others, but part of that responsibility is to help those younger teammates become the best players they can be by progressing each year. Not just scoring but helping the young guys, that's what I enjoy most."
Even though he had set a standard by leading the ULEB Cup in scoring last season, Gurovic was simply unstoppable from the very start of the new one on October 31. He was the top scorer in Week 1, on the road at dangerous PAOK, pouring in 34 points while going 12-for-12 in free throws for a 68-78 victory by C. Zvezda. The bigger the opponent, the better Gurovic played in the early going. In Week 2, he had 28 points while making 14 of 15 free throws as C. Zvezda edged Unics 87-84. He then earned the Week 3 MVP honor with 35 points against eventual Group D champion Real Madrid. Gurovic amassed a 42 index rating that night, drilling 35 points by making 6 of 6 two-pointers, 4 of 9 triples and 11 of 12 free throws. In Week 4, Gurovic shined again with 24 points - his lowest scoring night to that point - against Dexia Mons. His second weekly MVP citatioin came in Week 5 as Gurovic led C. Zvezda to a 90-82 home win against EiffelTowers Den Bosch with 34 points, including 12 of 12 free throws. At that point, nobody knew how to stop him, especially when earned the weekly MVP honor for the third time in six games by downing 27 points despite losing the rematch against PAOK. Next, Gurovic added 28 points against Unics and 16 against Madrid in back-to-back road losses. C. Zvezda now needed to win its last two games to finish third in Group D and Gurovic got the message. He had 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 27-point home win against Mons, and finished the regular season with a 15-point perfomance on the road against EiffelTowers.
In a record-breaking season and arguably in the best shape of his already legendary career, Gurovic has shattered some of the ULEB Cup all-time regular season records. The fact that he did not stop filling the baskets gave him two ULEB Cup records: most total points (270) and highest scoring average (27 ppg.) during any regular season in the five editions of the competition. Gurovic not only was the top scorer in the competition, but also led the league in minutes (almost 37 per game), three-pointers made (31) and attempted (84), free throws made (95) and attempted (109), fouls drawn (76) and above all, index rating (27 per game). Leon Rodgers of EiffelTowers was second in the index ranking standings (23.7) while Tariq Kirksay of Sluc Nancy was third (23.6). Gurovic needed 24 games to become the ULEB Cup's seventh-best all-time scorer with 503 points. Gurovic also ranked 34th in rebounds, becoming one of the best small forwards in that category, and 38th in steals. In other words, Gurovic was all over the place, became the most unstoppable player in the competition and led C. Zvezda to the elimination rounds in difficult Group D. It all adds up to an MVP regular season for ULEB Cup star Milan Gurovic.