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. As with Mirotic and previous award winners, fans can expect Kostas Papanikolaou, the 2013 Rising Star, to keep shining for years to come.
The Rising Star Trophy is one of several end-of-season honors awarded by Euroleague Basketball. Earlier in the week, the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy was credited to Montepaschi Siena guard Bobby Brown. Other to be announced shortly include: the Euroleague Best Defender Trophy, the Euroleague Rising Star Trophy, and the All-Euroleague nominees and the first- and second-team honorees. The bwin MVP award will be revealed at the Efes Pilsener Euroleague Awards Ceremony on May 9. Two other awards, the Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy and the Euroleague Club Executive of the Year, are given after the season ends.
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 As he has all season, Papanikolaou will look to take responsibility well beyond what his age would suggest as Olympiacos heads to London chasing history in the form of a title repeat.
Papanikolaou's selection ensures that half of the first eight Rising Star Award winners will be competing at the London Final Four. Barcelona Regal big man Erazem Lorbek, then of Climamio Bologna, was the recipient of the inaugural Rising Star Award in 2005 and Mirotic's Madrid teammate Rudy Fernandez collected the trophy with DKV Joventut in 2007. The list of other past Rising Star Award winners includes Andrea Bargnani with Benetton Treviso in 2006, Danilo Gallinari of Armani Jeans Milano in 2008, Novica Velickovic of Partizan in 2009, Ricky Rubio of Barcelona Regal in 2010, and Mirotic, the first two-time winner, in 2011 and 2012. Papanikolaou will be honored as the Rising Star Trophy winner at the Euroleague Awards Ceremony during the 2013 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four.