FIBA Europe announced on Monday that Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania is the Young Men’s Player of the Year for 2011. Valanciunas was the winner of the expert panel vote* ahead of the U20 European Championship MVP Nikola Mirotic of Spain and came in second in the public vote.
The Lithuanian international propelled the Baltic nation to the top of the podium at the FIBA U19 World Championship in July by leading the tournament in points and rebounds.
Fresh off being selected by the Toronto Raptors with the fifth overall pick in the NBA Draft, the 2.10m center turned heads with his stratospheric performances since the very first game of the tournament. Valanciunas, who averaged a double-double with 23 points and 13.9 rebounds per game, saved the best for last.
He exploded in the final against Serbia with 36 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots, to secure the gold medal for his team and earn MVP honours almost unanimously.
In August, the 20-year-old joined the senior national team at EuroBasket 2011. His collaboration with veteran point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius provided some of the best pick’n’roll plays in the history of the EuroBasket and the host nation fans with some of their warmest memories of the tournament.
Valanciunas had already shown he could compete as equal against senior players earlier in the year, at club level. He featured in 16 games in his maiden Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season with Lietuvos Rytas and had 7.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest.
“Jonas is so quick, he is so agile, he is so skilled that sometimes I forget how tall he is,” said FIBA Europe President Olafur Rafnsson. “He stands out from other players his age and if one considers what a hugely gifted generation we are talking about, this is an incredible feat,” Rafnsson added.
“A lot of people compare Valanciunas to Sabonis, but he has his own distinct style,” said FIBA Europe Secretary General Nar Zanolin. “What he does have in common with Arvydas is the potential to develop into a big man who dominates the game at both ends of the floor, just like the Lithuanian legend did,” Zanolin concluded.
FIBA EUROPE 2011 YOUNG MEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS
*Six points awarded to the first-choice player in every ballot, three points to the second choice and two points to the third.