By: Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures

If there was ever a week for our young Rising Star candidates to declare war on their opponents, it was this one.  We were able to have a record breaker upstaged by the Week 8 MVP, it can’t get much better.  With above the rim rebounds, assassin like jumpers, bows being thrown around everywhere, and clutch play all being used as deadly weapons, the Rising Star Ranker has become a battlefield.  If you want to stay in this competition you might as well spend any free time you have at the gym tuning up your offensive arsenal, because from here on out it’s every man for himself.

Hate to see you go: Danilo Andjusic

Welcome to the party: Kostas Papanikolaou

1. Donatas MotiejunasPF/C, Asseco Prokom
Points: 14.3   Rebounds: 8.5   Assists: 1.1
Last Week: 1

I recently bestowed the honor of lead dog in this pack to Donatas, and he hasn’t disappointed.  He grabbed the most defensive rebounds in Euroleague history this week (18 defensive, 21 overall) and lead Asseco Prokom to their first victory of the season.  I don’t think I quite nailed that in enough, THE MOST DEFENSIVE REBOUNDS IN EUROLEAGUE history.  Take that naysayers.  He’s “too soft” or “plays on the perimeter too much”, why don’t you take those phrases and burn them up with pieces of Donatas’s old kid like floppy hair.  He’s become a beast this second half of the regular season and doesn’t look to be slowing down at all.  Motiejunas has turned over an entirely new leaf and isn’t taking shit from anyone anymore, he doesn’t care who you are.  It’s too bad Asseco won’t be advancing, this could of been something special.

2. Nikola MiroticPF, Real Madrid
Points: 11.1   Rebounds: 4.3   Assists: 1.1
Last Week: 3

He’s Baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!  After screwing around for the first half of the regular season, Mirotic has turned up the intense-o-meter and gone to work on unsuspecting opponents.  It all climaxed last night when Mirotic went for 26 points and eight boards to lock up Week 8 MVP honors.  Madrid took down Maccabi and grabbed sole possession of first place in the Euroleague’s toughest group.  Not too shabby Nikola.  With Madrid now rolling and Rudy Fernandez shipping off to the lone star state, Mirotic will continue to become one of the vocal points of the scariest offenses these two eyes have seen.  With that jumper locked in and a new energy geared towards mixing it up in the paint, Mirotic has his eyes set on that number one Rising Star Ranker spot.

3. Milan MacvanPF/C, Partizan Belgrade
Points: 15.5   Rebounds: 8.4   Assists: 1.9
Last Week: 2

How did this happen?  A few weeks ago it looked like Macvan was toying with the other rising star wannabees, but now he finds himself down in third place.  To this point in the season Macvan has been as good or better in most games than his counterparts above him, but that was with Nikola Pekovic playing next to him.  With Pek gone Macvan struggled more than usual with a heavier workload and Partizan lost to Spirou with Milan putting up 10 points, 12 rebounds, and almost fouling out.  Partizan looks like they still have the upper hand towards advancing, giving Macvan the chance to prove himself again.  He’s going to need to get back to bullying folks because now he’s got competition that is playing as good as anyone in the Euroleague.

4. Tornike ShengeliaF, Belgacom Spirou
Points: 8.9   Rebounds: 4.6   Assists: 1.1
Last Week: 4

It seems this has turned into a three-horse race and poor Tornike has been left out of all the fun.  Spirou can’t advance, leaving Shengelia with only two more game to show his best stuff.  He had a tantalizing performance this week, going off for a season best 17 points and finally helping Spirou get their second win.  It’s been a quality season so far for Shengelia and he’s been a key clog for this Spirou team that has lost way too many nail-biting games.  The most disturbing trend in Shengelia’s game has been the steep falloff in his rebounding numbers.  Once a board master, especially for his size, he’s slowed down fighting for positioning and needs to get that Rodman rebounding hunger back.  You still have two game Tornike, make them count.

5. Kostas Papanikalou, F, Olympiacos
Points: 4.6 Rebounds: 3.0 Assists: 0.4
Last Week: Unranked

Well hello there Mr. Kostas Papanikalou, didn’t know you’d be joining us.  After scoring a total of two whole points through three games, I never thought I’d be seeing Papanikalou crack this list.  But Kostas finally came through giving us all some good games these past few weeks and finally, finally breaking into double figure scoring this week by putting in 12 points to go along with five boards.  Where was this all season Kostas?  Olympiacos started the season much similar to Papanikalou, going 1-3 and looking very unimpressive.  They’ve turned everything around, going 3-1 since then, and it seems Olympaicos’ improved play has gone right in line with Papanikalou’s large leaps forward.  With the Reds looking pretty safe for advancing, Papanikalou can settle into his 20-25 minutes a game role, and keep running hard all over the court and attacking the basket.  If you really want to see Papanikalou’s new badass attitude on display, check out the first play of the Top 10.