Going into the 14th and final week of play in European basketball’s toughest group ever, one player has proved absolutely vital to his team having already survived to reach the playoffs. For his consistent excellence as Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz clinched at least second place in Top 16 Group F during March, veteran center Ioannis Bourousis has been named the Turkish Airlines Euroleague’s monthly MVP for the first time in his career. Despite facing a killer March schedule – with four teams that won six of the last 10 Euroleague titles plus the reigning Eurocup champion – Laboral matched the group’s best record for the month and Bourousis had everything to do with it. In all three of Laboral’s victories, he was the team’s top performer, with high enough index ratings to earn or share MVP of the Week honors after two of them. Coming off the bench and playing 27 minutes per game, Bourousis averaged nearly a double-double over five games. He also led his team to sweeps of two Spanish rivals, FC Barcelona Lassa and Real Madrid, that guaranteed Laboral home-court advantage in the playoffs for just the second time this decade. As he has been doing all season, Bourousis was the perfect leader for his less experienced teammates in one of the toughest five-game stretches that any Euroleague team has ever had to play. For all that – and his stellar numbers, too – Bourousis can stand tall as the Euroleague’s MVP for March.
The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 12th season. Although statistics and performance index ratings are taken into consideration for the award, they alone do not determine who is honored. The winner is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his and his team’s performance. The award for March was based on the five Top 16 games that all teams played between March 6 and April 1.
After a road loss to his former team, Olympiacos Piraeus, in which Bourousis led all players in points, rebounds and performance rating, Laboral came home to get its first March win in a Game of the Week showdown with Khimki Moscow Region. Bourousis delivered a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds, along with a career-high 6 assists, to inspire that convincing 98-83 victory and claim the weekly MVP award. After he contributed 10 points and 9 rebounds in another hard-fought road defeat at CSKA Moscow, Bourousis led his team back to winning ways with a game-high 22 points and 7 rebounds in a crucial 75-71 home victory over Barcelona. The month would conclude with a thriller at home against Madrid, the team with whom Bourousis won the Euroleague title last season. With his 11th double-double this season, 25 points and 10 rebounds, Bourousis laid the foundation for what became a thrilling 89-88 triumph on Davis Bertans’ game-winning three-pointer. That stunning victory saw Bourousis share the weekly MVP honor, his fourth of the season, as Laboral became the first team this century to sweep both Madrid and Barcelona during the same Euroleague season.
By the end of the month’s five games, Bourousis had posted averages of 18.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals while making 61% of his two-point shots. His performance index rating average, 24.4, was the competition’s second best over that span. Also last month, Bourousis became the first player to surpass 1,000 defensive rebounds in his Euroleague career. After taking Laboral further than anyone outside Vitoria-Gasteiz expected in such a tough group, the team’s fans are now looking forward to home playoff games at which they will get a chance to congratulate Bourousis for his March MVP award.