02.03.2009 · 00:00
Novica Veličković:Euroleague MVP for February
BC Partizan player Novica Veličković is chosen Euroleague MVP for February! Partizan had started the Top 16 with the biggest defeat in this season in a group where all four teams had every intention of reaching the Quarterfinal Playoffs. One month later, just three teams in the entire Euroleague have made the playoffs, two of whom are still undefeated. The third is Partizan Belgrade, and the one player most indispensable to the team's amazing turnaround month, 22-year-old forward Novica Velickovic, is Euroleague Basketball MVP choice for February. Velickovic provided everything Partizan could ask for and more. Besides pacing the team in scoring, rebounds, steals and index rating for the month, Velickovic provided leadership beyond his years as a driving force in Partizan's three victories. The amazing home crowd in 'Hala Pionir' in Belgrade certainly deserved credits for Velickovic's outstanding leadership in first two wins, against Lottomatica Roma and Unicaja. Then, however, it took pure will to succeed, as exemplified by Velickovic, for Partizan to defeat Unicaja in overtime on the road to clinch its second consecutive trip to the quarterfinals. Against strong competition from great players whose teams also went undefeated last month, Velickovic's special role in leading the youngest Euroleague roster to an early Top 8 playoff berth made him the MVP for February.Euroleague MVP of the Month honour has been presented for five seasons. Although statistics and performance ratings are taken into consideration for the award, they alone do not determine who is honoured. The winner is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his personal and his team's performance. The award for February was decided considering the three Top 16 games played by all teams during that month. If experience counts, Velickovic had plenty despite his age after having helped Partizan survive the Top 16 a year ago. Now, at the start of February - and despite an 18-point loss in the Top 16 opener against Panathinaikos - the Partizan fans in Belgrade sensed something special again, and they did not make a mistake. As soon as Lottomatica Roma walked on the Pionir floor, Velickovic scored his team's first 8 points on a pair of three-point shots and a dunk as Partizan established double-digit lead in the first quarter. When Roma lowered the difference to 9 points late in the third, Velickovic ended the threat with an amazing put-back dunk that kept Partizan fans on their feet until their team won 84-76. Velickovic finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds 3 assists and 2 blocks and a performance index rating of 29 that earned him the Top 16, Week 2 MVP honour. A week later, Unicaja came to Belgrade for what proved to be a defensive showdown over second place in their group. In a game where no player on either team scored more than 12 points, Velickovic chose his moments wisely. He scored his first 5 during a 16-0 Partizan run that bridged halftime. Then, he reemerged for 4 points and a huge assist in a 7-0 takeover run that set up Partizan’s crucial one-point victory, 60-59. Velickovic finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists and 2 blocks. Soon, the same two teams were facing each other again, this time in Malaga, Spain, where Unicaja had been one of the most consistent home teams for all decade. Offensively, Velickovic played the role of scoring consistently to keep Partizan close in the first three quarters. Defensively, he helped make Unicaja's forwards non-factors. Although not in a starring role, Velickovic contributed 17 points and 6 rebounds, none of which Partizan could have done without as it pulled off a super-charged 74-78 victory in overtime. One night later, a win by group G leader Panathinaikos made it official: Partizan had earned a place in the Quarterfinal Playoffs for a second year in a row! Perhaps no one should be surprised that Partizan was capable of becoming one of the earliest playoff qualifiers. For the lack of three more baskets - one for each of its one-point losses this season - Partizan would now tie for the second-best overall record in the entire competition. And when 'the Black and Whites' needed to qualify for the Top 16, Partizan players registered one of the rare road victories of all decade against CSKA in Moscow. The month of February ended all speculation about Partizan's hard-won status as one of the best clubs in Europe. A young veteran who deserves plenty credit for leading the way, Velickovic finished February with averages of 16 points and 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks against teams just as intent on winning as his team was. For that effort, and for extending the season into the playoffs, the Belgrade fans will be on their feet once again when Novica Velickovic receives the February MVP award at the match against Panathinaikos on Thursday, March 5 at 20:45 in Belgrade Arena this time. Ticket sales start on Tuesday, March 3 at 10 a.m. at Belgrade Arena ticket offices.