If he entered the season as an unknown in the Caja Laboral lineup – at least to fans outside Vitoria, Spain – then Stanko Barac has arrived to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 with as big a profile as possible. Long considered a promising center prospect, the pressure was on this year as Barac was inserted into the starting lineup. But if there were questions, Barac answered them quickly and emphatically. Barac, 24, has posted some of the best statistics in the competition and was a rock in the middle for Laboral as it rallied from a rare losing streak to reach the Top 16 as one of the hottest teams around!
From the start of his career with Bosnian club Siroki, Barac was followed by Europe’s best clubs because of his combination of size – he stands 2.17 meters tall – and basketball skills. A breakout season at age 20 in 2006-07 caused Laboral to pounce with a long-term contract offer. After one year on loan in Valencia, Barac arrived to Vitoria and had moderate success in a limited role.
This season, Barac showed from the start that he was ready for his bigger role. He scored 7 points in the first quarter of the season against Maccabi as Laboral built a big lead and cruised to victory. In Week 2, he led the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks in a win at Prokom. A week later, he registered a double-double, setting Euroleague career highs along the way that would be bettered later in the season. Barac was just as good against the best teams he faced as against those eliminated in the regular season. Barac shined with 18 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocked shots – the last three numbers representing his Euroleague career-highs – on the road against group winner Maccabi Electra. He followed that up with a career-high 25 points the following week against Asseco Prokom.
When the regular season finished, Barac wass the only player in the Euroleague this season to rank among the top 10 in performance index rating (eighth, 16.6 per game), scoring (ninth, 14.1 ppg.), free-throw shooting (ninth, 86.1%), rebounding (fifth, 6.7 rpg.) and blocked shots (seventh, 1.3 bpg.).
On the eve of the Top 16, Barac stands out as a pillar for Laboral. While his talent has always been obvious, his conviction to dominate on both ends of the floor has made Barac one of the most dangerous centers in the competition. If he continues to raise his level, Barac and Caja Laboral could be well on their way to a memorable season.