The list of winners of the EuroCup Rising Star Trophy includes players who have – as the name attests – gone on to find stardom at the highest levels of the game. This season there are many legitimate candidates for the award who have earned important roles on their respective teams in many different ways. Some are products of the youth teams, others are valued prospects signed from other clubs and there are even those looking to rebuild their names and reputations after striking out elsewhere. Not all the Rising-Star Eligible players with big roles could be listed and the likes of Hugo Benitez of Mincidelice JL Bourg en Bresse, Andrei Martiuk of Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Mario Nakic of MoraBanc Andorra, narrowly missed the cut. Here is a list of the five best Rising Star Trophy-eligible players so far based on their numbers.
5. Jaime Pradilla, Valencia Basket
Jaime Pradilla has taken advantage of an injury to Mike Tobey to become a key player for Valencia Basket. Using his outstanding post skills and ever-developing shooting range, Pradilla is playing more than anyone would have expected and surpassing all expectations. He is averaging 10.0 points on a sensational 85.7% two-point shooting (18-of-21). Pradilla has also made 50.0% of his shots from downtown and 88.9% of his free throws to go with 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists on average. He has reached double digits in PIR in all games but one after now. Pradilla is full of confidence and looks to keep it going.
4. Alen Smailagic, Partizan NIS Belgrade
A mobile center who can finish above the rim, 21-year-old Alen Smailagic returned home to his native Belgrade this season to play for Partizan NIS Belgrade after spending three seasons on the other side of the Atlantic. Smailagic is showing off all his skills under the watchful eye of the legendary Zeljko Obradovic. He is averaging 10.6 points on good shooting (52.6% 2FG, 43.8% 3FG,) in addition to 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for a PIR average of 12.0. Smailagic had his first EuroCup career double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds for a PIR of 20 in Round 5 against Leitkabelis Panevezys.
3. Alessandro Pajola, Virtus Segafredo Bologna
Even though he turned 22 in November and is on a team full of established stars, Alessandro Pajola has become one of Virtus Segafredo Bologna's defensive anchors. He puts on-the-ball pressure on the playmakers in front of him and reads the passing lanes like few other guards in the competition. Pajola is averaging 6.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals, ranking seventh in this last category. He has the chance to keep learning from the legendary Milos Teodosic, so expect Pajola to continue growing as a player as the season progresses.
2. Joel Parra, Joventut Badalona
Despite his team's loss in Belgrade, Joel Parra, an aggressive, left-handed forward full of energy, proved he can be one of Joventut Badalona's leaders. He had 14 points against Partizan NIS Belgrade and it was only his third-best scoring night of the season. Parra is averaging 13.4 points on 65.6% two-point shooting and 4.2 rebounds for a PIR of 14.2. He can shoot from beyond the arc, use his size to beat his opponents in the low post, play aggressive defense and run the floor like a guard.
1. Nikolaos Rogkavopoulos, Promitheas Patras
After playing in Greece and Turkey, Nikolaos Rogkavopoulos made his EuroCup debut this season and caught everyone by surprise. He leads all Rising Star candidates in PIR (18.2) and ranks 10th overall. Rogkavopoulos is averaging 12.2 points on 56.5% three-point shooting, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals. His best game, stats-wise, came against Gran Canaria in Round 2 when he went for 21 points on 6-of-8 three-point shots plus 6 rebounds for a PIR of 28. He is making sure you remember his name - no matter how complicated it is for some people.