The Euroleague announced Wednesday that Portland Trail Blazers international forward Kostas Papanikolaou received the Rising Stars Trophy for the 2012-13 season. Papanikolaou plays for Olympiacos in his native Greece.
In one of the closest races in the history of the award, Kostas Papanikolaou of Olympiacos Piraeus has been voted the Euroleague Rising Star Trophy winner for the 2012-13 season. The Rising Star Trophy recognizes Euroleague players who were under the age of 22 on July 1 of the summer before the season started. One of the heroes for Olympiacos as it became champion in breathtaking fashion a year ago, Papanikolaou improved his reputation for great performances in big games this season. He also made a smooth transition for promising young talent to a pillar in the Reds' drive to repeat as Euroleague title-holders.
During this 2012-13 season, Papanikolaou boosted his production in every major statistical category, led the Euroleague in three-point accuracy and collected his first bwin MVP of the Week honor. His never-ending hustle, feel for the game at both ends of the court, and tremendous confidence have helped Papanikolaou develop into an exciting force to watch. By the slimmest of margins in voting conducted by Turkish Airlines Euroleague head coaches, Papanikolaou edged the Rising Star winner of the last two seasons, Nikola Mirotic of Real Madrid.
The impact of Papanikolaou, 22, can be seen from the fact that he was among the Reds' leaders across every statistical category. He was second on the team in rebounding ( 4.5 rpg.) and steals (0.9 spg.), third in performance index rating (12.2 per game) and blocks (0.7 bpg.), and fourth in both scoring (9 ppg.) and assists ( 1.4 apg.). It took Papanikolaou time to get going this season, but after three games passed, he rocked into form and led Olympiacos on a seven-game winning streak during which he averaged 13.1 points and an index rating of 15.3. His 59.4% three-point shooting was tied for the fifth-best regular season percentage in competition history among players with at least 30 attempts from the arc.
He saved the best game of his career to date for a little later, with Olympiacos facing elimination in the Top 16 finale. Papanikolaou left no doubts about his star status by posting career-highs of 21 points, 12 rebounds and a 37 index rating to lead his team over BC Khimki Moscow Region 79-70 and into the playoffs with home-court advantage. His 6-of-6 three-point shooting that night matched the best perfect shooting from behind the arc in Top 16 history. Even in the playoffs, with points harder to come by, Papanikolaou doubled his assists average to that point (from 1.2 apg. to 2.8 apg.) by creating the best shots for others, while simultaneously cutting his turnovers.
Nikos Varlas of EuroHoops.net reports Papanikolaou's reaction.
Eurohoops spoke to Olympiacos' forward and he clarified that he has a bigger goal in his mind at the moment: "After last season and what we achieved it's clear on my mind that every really big achievement comes through the team. This award doesn't change something for me as a player, doesn't make me better, because I believe that without those teammates I wouldn't get this award and I wouldn't live last season's triumph".
Asked if he feels like a Rising Star he replied: "I feel just rising. I still have many things to improve". Why he is presented so modest? Because he knows that what really counts is to be the champion: "If we don't do something important in London, nobody will remember this title, not even me, if we don't achieve our target".
The Blazers acquired Papanikolaou's rights from the New York Knicks in a July 2012 sign-and-trade involving Raymond Felton. Papanikolaou said in a March interview that he dreams of playing in the NBA and there was some chatter last fall that he might be brought over for the 2013-14 season. That talk appears to have subsided.
Former Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez won the award in 2007. Blazers forward Victor Claver won the Rising Star Award at the EuroCup tournament in 2010.
Thanks also to amlmart1 who got there first in the FanShots.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter