A month in which rebounders were protagonists from the start has ended with one who helped turn around his team's fortunes, Terence Morris of Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv, being named MVP for January by Euroleague Basketball. The month of the rebounder started with the first player to reach 1,000 boards this decade. Another grabbed the sixth-most ever in a single game, becoming weekly MVP despite single-digit scoring - another first. Yet another pulled enough boards in the last game to win the regular season rebounds race. When it came to rebounding and winning, however, no one matched Morris. Maccabi started January fourth in its group, just a victory ahead of fifth place. Five games later, it ended the month 5-0, tied for first place and for the third-most wins in the entire regular season. Morris had everything to do with that turnaround, averaging a double-double of 13 points and 11.2 rebounds while being the iron man for Maccabi. He set the tone for January by hauling down 19 rebounds in 40 minutes of a victory that broke Maccabi's tie for fourth place. He proceeded to show great versatility - 5 assists one game, 3 blocks another, 3 steals another, 54% three-point shooting - in doing what his team needed to win. The result was Maccabi soaring among the main challengers headed into the Top 16 and a very deserving Terence Morris being chosen as Euroleague Basketball's MVP for January.
Euroleague Basketball's MVP of the Month honor is in its fourth season. Although statistics and performance index ratings are taken into consideration for the award, they alone do not determine who is honored. The winner is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his and his team's performance during the previous month. The award for January was decided considering the five regular season games played by all teams during that month.
Although he was a solid contributor in Maccabi's first nine games this season, eight of which he began on the bench, few might have suspected Morris was ready to explode in January. Maccabi's new head coach, Zvi Sherf, certainly did. He kept Morris on court for all 40 minutes in the year-opening victory that signaled the team's coming turnaround, a 68-83 blowout road win against Efes Pilsen that broke their fourth-place tie in Group B. Morris collected 19 rebounds that night, tied for 11th-most in any Euroleague game all decade, to go with 16 points for a team-high performance index rating of 30. Next, Maccabi blasted visiting group co-leader Unicaja 68-87 as Morris had 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 30 minutes, shooting 5-for-7 on two-pointers and making his only shot from downtown. Back on the road at Cibona in Week 12, Morris was the 40-minute man again, collecting 11 points, 15 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks as Maccabi won its third straight, 76-81. The fourth victory in a row came at home, 91-76 over Armani Jeans Milano as Morris had his "quietest" game of the month, 12 points and 7 rebounds. In the month's fifth and final game at Aris TT bank, Maccabi won a 94-101 overtime thriller as Morris contributed 13 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks, missing but a single shot all night. He also played more than 39 minutes, completing a month of on-court work that, in time and quality combined, would be hard to match.
Although a perfect 5-0 month didn't mean first-place in its regular season group, Maccabi emerged from January in a stronger shade of yellow, thanks in great part to Morris. His consistency, versatility and selflessness was clear as a player who took more rebounds than shots while giving his team momentum for the Top 16. Morris and Maccabi's fans will get to celebrate together when he receives his January MVP award at an upcoming home game.