The first month of 2021 was one to remember for Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul and its iconic veteran center, Jan Vesely, who is EuroLeague Basketball’s choice for MVP in January. Fenerbahce’s rise through the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague standings last month had Vesely’s fingerprints all over it. The former champion posted the highest performance index rating in the league over six games in January to lead Fenerbahce to a 6-0 record and a tie for eighth place. Fenerbahce had started January in 13th place. Half of Fenerbahce’s victories were on the road and three were against opponents placed higher in the standings when they tipped off. Vesely was near flawless throughout, making 42 of his 57 two-point shots and each of the 12 free throws that he attempted during the month. When January was over, he had led all EuroLeague players with an average PIR of 23.2, making him a slam dunk choice for the month’s top honor.
The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 17th 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 during the month in question. Vesely, the last full season MVP, has now won the monthly award three times in his 10-season EuroLeague career. He was also the last Fenerbahce player to win the award back in December 2018. Vesely’s three MVP of the Month awards are tied with teammate Nando De Colo, Juan Carlos Navarro, Vassilis Spanoulis and Ante Tomic for the second-most in EuroLeague history. Nikola Mirotic of FC Barcelona is the all-time leader with four.
Vesely started January modestly, scoring 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 2 steals in a 71-73 road win over Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade. He was just getting started, though. Next, Vesely posted 17 points with just 2 missed shots as Fenerbahce won at home 96-76 against visiting TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. Vesely also dished 4 assists in that victory. Staying at home for the second half of that two-round week, Vesely contributed 12 points and 7 rebounds to a 100-74 home win against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens. Fenerbahce’s most resounding triumph of the month came next. Fenerbahce defeated then-league leaders CSKA 83-89 in Moscow as Vesely amassed 24 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. His performance index rating of 32 was Vesely’s best total on the road since early in his 2018-19 MVP campaign. January came to a close with another two-round week. At home for that week’s first game, Vesely was near-perfect again making 9 of 11 shots plus 6 rebounds and 4 assists for a PIR of 29 as Fenerbahce turned back Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv for its seventh consecutive victory. Vesely topped off the month with perfect shooting, 5 of 5 from two-point distance and 5 for 5 from the foul line plus 4 rebounds and 2 steals for a 27 PIR as Fenerbahce exploded for a 76-107 road win at Khimki Moscow Region. Vesely continued his climb on the all-time charts as his 162nd career block in that game moved him into a tie with Mirza Begic for ninth place in EuroLeague history.
Altogether in January, Vesely averaged 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.4 steals over the six victories. Vesely’s scoring in January was 38.3% higher than in his previous 14 games this season while his performance index rating jumped 56%. His 73.6% two-point shooting and 100% free throw shooting meant that Vesely missed just 15 of his 69 shots taken during January. While doing so, Vesely helped Fenerbahce position itself for a run at its sixth consecutive appearance in the playoffs. Vesely will receive his new award at an upcoming home game.