MVP for April: Ekpe Udoh, Fenerbahce Istanbul

Apr 28, 2016 by Print
MVP for April: Ekpe Udoh, Fenerbahce Istanbul

When Fenerbahce Istanbul needed him most, Ekpe Udoh was there. And then some. The first-year center played some of his best basketball in the playoffs to lead his team to a second consecutive Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four appearance. Despite missing star big man and Udoh’s frontcourt mate Jan Vesely to injury, Fenerbahce powered through defending Euroleague champion Real Madrid in the minimum three games. And no player had a bigger role in the triumph than Udoh, who was the playoffs leader in performance index rating and blocked shots and ranked second in rebounds. Those outstanding efforts, which included Udoh claiming MVP honors for both Games 2 and 3 of the playoffs, led to the center being recognized as Euroleague Basketball's MVP for the month of April. Udoh simply got stronger from game to game as his dominant display led Fenerbahce to an impressive series sweep. His average performance index rating of 23.7 was not only the highest in the playoffs this season, but the highest average playoff index over the last four years. Udoh’s value to his team was also shown by the fact that he spent more time on the floor than any of his teammates in each of the three playoff games, and the newly crowned monthly MVP is one of the main reasons that Fenerbahce is headed back to the Final Four.

The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 12th 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. The award for April was based on the Top 16 finale and the playoff series that were played during the month.

With Fenerbahce already in possession of home-court advantage for the playoffs, Udoh played limited minutes and contributed 6 points and 6 rebounds in the team’s Top 16 Round 14 loss on the road at Unicaja Malaga. However, when playoff time arrived, Udoh stepped to the forefront. The series against Madrid started in Istanbul, where Udoh’s second-quarter production helped Fenerbahce establish a big Game 1 lead. And when Madrid fought back in the second half, Udoh was there on defense in the closing minutes to help his team hold on for 75-69 win; he finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Two days later, Udoh played a fundamental role as Fenerbahce raced out to a huge early lead. He scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the first 15 minutes of the game, as Fenerbahce built a 25-point margin before halftime. On a near-perfect shooting night, Udoh also had 4 rebounds and 2 blocked shots for performance index rating of 25, enough to earn him co-MVP honors for Playoffs Game 2. When the series switched to Madrid for Game 3, Udoh broke out with a career night. In the 63-75 series clinching win, he collected a double-double of 15 points along with season-highs of 12 rebounds and 4 assists. Udoh added 2 steals and another 2 blocks, which saw him break the competition’s all-time single-season record for blocked shots with 53. Udoh additionally tied or set personal bests in offensive and defensive rebounds, and minutes played (37:16), while accumulating an index rating of 33 to become MVP for Game 3 of the playoffs.

Udoh averaged 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks for an average performance index rating of 20 in four April games. But it was the three victories in the playoffs that were most impressive, as his numbers improved to 14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds – of which 2.7 on offensive glass, 2 blocks, 1.3 assists and 1 steal per night. Udoh’s efforts on both ends of the floor were just what the doctor ordered for Fenerbahce, and he was the key that punched Fenerbahce’s ticket to its second consecutive Final Four.