Some players in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague know that every week, assuming they are fit and in good shape, they will receive at least 20 or 25 minutes on the floor.
These are the stars of the league, people around whom teams and game plans are built, and every roster has two or three of them. But there are plenty more whose minutes fluctuate from one game to the next, depending on a wide variety of circumstances: technical, tactical and physical. That doesn't mean, however, they are any less important, or any less appreciated by their coaches.
One of the players in that latter group is Sasha Vezenkov. The Olympiacos Piraeus forward has made 17 appearances for his team this season, but on most occasions, his role has been limited to less than 10 minutes, and sometimes only 2 or 3. Overall, he is averaging just 10:27 minutes per game and has never played more than 19:04 – and that came in a blowout home loss against AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan in Round 3.
On Thursday night, however, Vezenkov took a major role in his team's important home win over Khimki Moscow Region, which kept the Reds' charge for a top-four place on track. The 23-year-old scored a season-high 14 points by making 6 of 8 field goals and also registering an assist (only his 10th of the season) and 2 steals during 16 minutes of action.
At the end of the game, Coach David Blatt was keen to single out the efforts of Vezenkov, enthusing: "He's there every day, always ready to play, and when he gets the chance he gives a great effort and a great performance. He was just fabulous tonight and deserves any credit he gets. He really helped us, and there were games when he wasn't playing at all."
Indeed, Blatt continued to state that other players in his roster who are not currently playing too much – after being questioned specifically about Axel Toupane and Janis Timma – should make sure they follow the example set by Vezenkov.
"The job of a professional player is to be ready every day for your opportunity and to contribute when your time comes," Blatt explained. "That's what we have the right to expect. But I know it's not easy – a hundred years ago I was a player, so I've been on both sides of it and I feel for these guys, I know what it's like."
The message is clear: sometimes even those who don't necessarily play every week will have the chance to step forward and take a starring role…just like Sasha Vezenkov for Olympiacos on Thursday.