By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
Welcome Back! We’re two weeks into Euroleague competition and it seems that we’ve gotten just enough games in to start up the Rising Star Ranker again. If you missed last season’s column, I’ll be ranking the five best 22 and under Euroleaguers every other week. Last season Nikola Mirotic took home his first RSR and 2nd trophy from the Euroleague in spectacular fashion and I’m sure he has more fireworks planned for 2012-13 (he’s still age eligible).
So if you’re looking for that 21 year old who goes from role player to starter, you can find him here. Some really tall forward who plays in Spain’s capital, he’ll be talked about. Wait that team is being run successfully by three young guards, including one who’s still a teenager. Yea, they’ll be chronicled. And in the name of all things prospect, if Barcelona can please give it’s chicken coup of young aspiring hoopsters some real burn on the court, you’ll be able to follow them here. Stay tuned, stay critical, and drop a comment with the Rising Stars you think I should be giving more love to.
1. Leo Westerman, PG, Partizan Belgrade
Points: 13.5 Rebounds: 2.5 Assists: 3.5
The barely 20 year old Frenchman breathes poise and confidence like he’s been doing this for decades The game he played against CSKA isn’t something that can be seen by looking at a box score or highlight tape, it’s something that you need to watch from when the ball tipped off til overtime ended to truly understand what he accomplished. Westermann led a team with an average of 22 years old against last year’s championship runner-up and came within a Bogdan Bogdanovic trey of a Pionir celebration. Because of the injury to Torey Thomas Westermann logged 41 minutes against CSKA. 41! There are few 20 year olds in the world you could throw out and have still standing after 41 against CSKA. Westermann was doing much more than just standing. He controlled everything for the Serbian squad. He was a safety valve when the offense broke down, scored in a variety of ways, and pestered CSKA’s lead guard constantly. He may have forced things at time, especially passes to his bigs off the drive but the way he orchestrated a comeback and almost giant upset of a championship favorite, was breathtaking.
2. Nikola Mirotic, PF, Real Madrid
Points: 14.0 Rebounds: 6.0 FG%: 50%
Take your pictures now because it’s going to be pretty hard to take Mirotic off the #1 spot for every RSR edition. The MVP candidate was, as Rob Scott put, quite impressive in his first game, as he showed us a more complete game when his jumper wasn’t falling. Week 2 wasn’t as fruitful for Mirotic, as he wasn’t as assertive and Real lost. Don’t be scarred though, Mirotic is still far and away the most talented Rising Star out there. If he keeps running the floor like he has (basically as if an earthquake was starting behind him) then his motor combined with that offensive touch will lead to ungodly scoring totals.
3. Jaka Blazic, G, Union Olimpija
Points: 10.5 Rebounds: 5.5 Assists: 2.0
Partizan might have the best collection of young prospects, but overall, Union Olimpija’s have played better. The trio fo Jaka Blazic, Sasu Salin, and Klemen Prepelic have been devastating through two games. Just keep your foot slammed on the gas and attack young men. Blazic has the most experience and has been the biggest catalyst so far. His shooting hasn’t been superb but his motor has, so keep after it Jaka, you’ve got momentum on your side.
4. Sasu Salin, G, Union Olimpija
Points: 10.0 Rebounds: 4.0 Assists: 1.0
Blazic’s running mate in Slovenia gets the slight notch below in the rankings but has been arguably more efficient overall. He’s shooting the ball better, taking fewer chances, and is playing more in control basketball. Salin, Blazic, and Prepelic are all basically two guards but have played in three guard lineups together and distributed the ball beautifully. Count me as impressed As far as Union goes, look for there to be a guard of their’s lurking around the rankings often.
5. Mateusz Ponitka, G, Asseco Prokom
Points: 10.5 Rebounds: 3.5 FG%: 75%
Puberty is just at an accelerated rate nowadays. Introducing 19 year old Polish swing man Mateusz Ponitka. A Euroleague rookie and heralded prospect. Ponitka isn’t the most well rounded player just yet, as through two games he hasn’t even registered an assist. But he can do one thing well…score the rock. Whether it be a long range trey that he’ll step up and shoot no matter how close you get or scooting by you with some intensity, he’s already confident enough to score at this level. Now can he develop other parts of his game and how far can Asseco go? Those questions are still up for speculation.