In an era when teams rely less and less on scoring stars, it might seem more than enough to state that Euroleague Basketball's choice as January MVP, Igor Rakocevic of Tau Ceramica, is collecting points more efficiently than any player this decade. With the amazing month that Rakocevic just had, however, that would be saying too little. In addition to posting .75 points per minute so far this season - more than any Euroleague player's full-season scoring rate since at least 2000 - Rakocevic spent January harvesting milestones and records at every turn. He started the month by setting a new Euroleague mark for consecutive free throws made while posting his career-high scoring total, 31 points, in a crucial victory that won Tau first place in its regular season group. He finished January by marking his 100th career Euroleague game with 14 points in the first 7 minutes of what became a 22-point blowout victory with which Tau open the Top 16 in style. All told during three victories in January, Rakocevic averaged 23.3 points and 5 rebounds while matching the best three-game scoring span of his six-season Euroleague career. Those stellar performances made Igor Rakocevic a more-than-deserving choice as Euroleague Basketball's MVP for January.
Euroleague Basketball's MVP of the Month honor is in its fifth season. Although statistics and performance 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 performances. The award for January was decided considering the two regular season games and one Top 16 game played during that month.
The new year began for Tau and Rakocevic with a stark challenge: win on the road at Lottomatica Roma or lose first place in their regular season group. Early in the game, Rakocevic broke the free-throw record, which had stood at 48, and early in the fourth quarter, he shot Tau ahead by 10 points. When the game was forced to overtime, he scored 6 points as Tau pulled away to a 96-103 victory. Just when Tau needed him most, Rakocevic posted career highs in points, 31, in rebounds, 8, and in performance index rating, 36, while hitting 12 of 12 free throws. Next, Tau finished the regular season at home against the only team it had lost to previously other than Roman. Now, Tau eliminated Spanish rival DKV Joventut from the Top 16 as Rakocevic again led way with 19 points. His consecutive free throw streak reached 58 before his first miss at the foul line since last season's Final Four. Back at home for the Top 16 opener against Asseco Prokom Sopot, Tau found Rakocevic in a state of grace to start the game. Within 7 minutes, he had outscored Prokom 14-9 himself as Tau raced to a 27-9 advantage and never looked back on the way to a 99-77 win. Rakocevic finished with 20 points in 24 minutes. He lifted his lifted league-leading points and fifth-best index rating averages to exactly 20 each in his 100th Euroleague game.
By the time he was finished his red-hot month of January, Rakocevic had landed third in scoring average this decade among all players with 100 or more Euroleague games, behind only Marcus Brown and Dejan Bodiroga. What's more, his career points-per-minute rate is now .57, better than anyone who has played more than 60 Euroleague games since 2000. By raising his already-accomplished career to new heights this season, Igor Rakocevic is helping Tau Ceramica maintain an elite status that few teams in European basketball history have enjoyed. Tau and its fans will also enjoy Rakocevic receiving his January MVP award at an upcoming home game.