The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague has always been a breeding ground for future stars. At the end of each season, the head coaches vote on the young player who has impressed them the most and the winner is awarded the EuroLeague Rising Star Trophy. The list of past EuroLeague Rising Stars is riddled with future champions and All-EuroLeague champions, including the likes of Rudy Fernandez, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Luka Doncic. Any player born after July 1, 1997, is a candidate to win the award this season. Here's a look at 10 of the top candidates to join that list of winners at the end of this season!
10. Tarik Biberovic, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (2001)
After polishing his skills at Spars Ziraat Bank Sarajevo the last few seasons and showing his upside at the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament, Biberovic joined Fenerbahce last season and already saw playing time with the Turkish powerhouse, totaling 47 minutes in eight games - including in both Final Four showdowns, Biberovic is a modern forward with great ballhandling ability who is able to help at point guard. He runs the floor very well and is in the right place to take the next step under a coaching legend who trusts him and role models like Kostas Sloukas and Gigi Datome to learn from. Keep an eye on him.
9. Usman Garuba, Real Madrid (2002)
The youngest player on this list, Garuba - and Mario Nakic - are set to be the next on a respectable list of Real's top homegrown talents, Both of them are already full-time members of Los Blancos' first-team roster. Garuba is a force of nature; he is tall, mobile and has a 2.20-meter wingspan. Garuba boasts strong low post skills and is developing his outside shooting, but still struggles from the foul line. A natural-born rebounder, Garuba possesses great instincts to power the glass, and Real knows how to develop young talent at the highest level.
8. Rokas Jokubaitis, Zalgiris Kaunas (2000)
He made his EuroLeague debut last season and is set to play a bigger role for Zalgiris in the future after re-signing with the Lithuanian champs for three more years. Jokubaitis has settled down and gained the trust of Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius and will likely be one of the main pillars of the Zalgiris team over the next years. As a young point guard, he has the chance to learn from 'Saras', one of the best European players at the spot ever. A left-handed, athletic playmaker with good penetration skills, Jokubaitis dominated at the junior levels and is ready to face tougher challenges.
7. Aleksej Pokusevski, Olympiacos Piraeus (2001)
Pokusevski is perhaps the most intriguing player in this list; a 2.11-meter point forward with unlimited upside, He practiced with Olympiacos's first team all season long, but only took part in two EuroLeague games late in the regular season. His playing time will be increased this season and Pokusevski will have the chance to show more of his skills. He knows how to use his size and long arms on defense and can pull down a rebound and start a fast break due to his excellent ballhandling skills for a player his size. Pokusevski is also a good three-point shooter.
6. Borisa Simanic, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (1998)
Simanic is a do-it-all power forward with size, speed, deep shooting range and loads of determination, He proved his value from a young age; Simanic won the 2014 Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament with U18 Zvezda and was the tournament's MVP two years later, Last season, he showed hints of the player he can become by averaging 4,9 points and 2,5 rebounds in 15 7DAYS EuroCup games. Simanic has great timing to block shots and pull down offensive rebounds, is an effective outside shooter with a quick release and will not back down against anyone, That winning attitude will help him a lot in his career.
5. Deni Avdija, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (2001)
Advija already played in the EuroLeague last season when he posted 3.9 points on 50% three-point shooting in eight games, including averages of 10.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in 15 minutes per game over his last two appearances. He showcased his skills at the 2019 Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament in Vitoria-Gasteiz, averaging 24.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.9 steals, Advija can play all of the perimeter positions, using his size and mobility to be effective on defense and taking advantage of his ballhandling and shooting to trouble defenders. A star in his country after leading Israel to the U20 European title as the tournament MVP, Avdija will fight for EuroLeague quality playing time.
4. Stefan Peno, ALBA Berlin (1997, Aug 3)
A young veteran, Peno has already played in the EuroLeague and the 7DAYS EuroCup. He comes off a breakout season with ALBA in which he averaged 5.9 points and 4.8 assists in 15 games and, helping the club reach the EuroCup Finals. A pass-first playmaker, Peno has the rare ability to get everyone involved on offense, which works perfectly for Coach Aito Garcia Reneses's system. He is also a sticky on-the-ball defender, putting pressure on other point guards to take their teams out of the regular plays. Peno will have a key role for ALBA off the bench trying to change games with his defense and passing.
3. Laurynas Birutis, Zalgiris Kaunas (1997, Aug 27)
Zalgiris has developed quality centers over the years and Birutis hopes to be the next player on that list. He was the Lithuanian League MVP two seasons ago when he played for Siauliai and joined Zalgiris’s first-team roster last season when he averaged 2.7 points on 58.6% two-point shooting over 17 EuroLeague games before a season-ending injury. Birutis is a mobile big man with polished post skills, who will not hesitate to dunk on any opportunity he gets. He knows how to use his size in the paint, too, with good timing for blocks and offensive rebounds and a nice set of post moves to finish down low with either hand. Birutis will be more experienced and ready to make a difference this season.
2. Yovel Zoosman, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (1998)
The runner-up to Goga Bitadze in the 2018-19 Rising Star voting, Zoosman already proved his value in the EuroLeague last season when he led Maccabi to a historic road win against eventual champion CSKA Moscow with 15 points with perfect shooting. He has a high basketball IQ and can read the defense to make himself available under the baskets for easy points. His fast hands, long arms and quick thinking make him a terrific finisher in two-on-two situations, too, whether creating off the dribble or using his passing skills to make the difference. Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos trusts him and at age 21, the sky may very well be the limit for this versatile, talented swingman.
1. Theo Maledon, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne (2001)
The time has finally come for Maledon to make his EuroLeague debut and he is ready to make sure no-one forgets about his first season in Europe's top competition. Maledon is an elite talent, the kind of prospect you see once in a generation. He averaged 7.1 points and 2.1 assists in 18 games in the 7DAYS EuroCup last season as a 17-year-old. ASVEL president and legendary point guard Tony Parker is aware of his potential and Maledon is set to play a leading role for the French power in the EuroLeague. Fast, athletic, determined and always improving, Maledon is the front runner to win the Rising Star trophy and everyone is excited to see what he can do in the EuroLeague.