|EuroBasket MVP Tony Parker has been named Europlayer 2013 by La Gazzetta Dello Sport|
January is traditionally a time of awards in sport and several of the candidates for the biggest distinction in European basketball, the FIBA Europe Player of the Year trophy, have strengthened their case in the last hours.
The results of the world-wide poll for the 2013 FIBA Europe Awards will be announced in February to culminate a process that has already kicked off since, as is customary, a number of institutions, federations or media outlets around the continent look back and honour the stand-out players of the year.
The charismatic French point guard of the San Antonio Spurs received 283 votes by an international panel which consists of players, coaches and journalists from 33 countries.
In the women's voting, Alba Torrens of European champions Spain was named the winner, with Sandrine Gruda and Celine Dumerc of EuroBasket Women silver medallists France taking second and third spot, respectively.
The Europlayer awards were established in 1979 (initially only for men) and Vladimir Tkachenko, the legendary center of the former Soviet Union, was the first player to earn the distinction.
In 2005, FIBA Europe established the official European Player of the Year awards, and the winner in the Senior Men's category has coincided with that of the Europlayer trophy on five occasions.
The notable exceptions were in 2006, when Theo Papaloukas won the FIBA Europe award and Dirk Nowitzki was named Europlayer, in 2007 (Andrei Kirilenko - Tony Parker) and in 2010 (Milos Teodosic - Pau Gasol).
On Friday, Petteri Koponen, who just like Parker is also a candidate for the FIBA Europe Player of the Year Award, was named 'Finnish Athlete of the Year' by the readers of national newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.
The sharp-shooting guard was chosen by the Finnish public as the best among 17 athletes from different sports, in what represents a significant distinction for basketball in the Scandinavian country.
"Niklas Moisander has played for Ajax and the football national team brilliantly and [Formula 1 driver] Kimmi Raikkonen is brilliant, so maybe this choice tells us that basketball's popularity has increased in Finland," Kopenen said, commenting on his two famous compatriots who came in second and third place.
Finnish national team head coach Henrik Dettmann, who qualified Koponen as 'an exceptional player who can score but also direct his team-mates', attributed the award to a growing trend in how sport is perceived in the country.
"In the old days, sport in Finland was only valued in centimetres and seconds," Dettmann said, in a reference to his country's rich tradition in track and field and in motorised sports.
"Nowadays, team sports players are starting to get the attention they deserve."
The public vote will be combined with that of a panel of selected experts, to arrive at the final winners of each category.