23 Lauri Markkanen (FIN)
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World Cup star Markkanen named Athlete of the Year in Finland

HELSINKI (Finland) - Lauri Markkanen has added to his growing legend in Finland by being voted as the 2023 Athlete of the Year in his homeland.

Markkanen received the most votes cast by members of the Finnish Sports Journalists' Association and the award was presented at last Thursday night's Sports Gala.

The national team star, who led the Susijengi at last year's FIBA Basketball World Cup after being named to play in the NBA All-Star Game for the first time, averaged a career-high 25.6 points per game in the 2022-23 campaign - his sixth - with Utah. 

Finland did not survive the "group of death" in Okinawa, where they fell to eventual champions Germany, powerhouse Australia and a quickly improving Japan, yet Markkanen excelled. He averaged 24.8 points per game. Only Luka Doncic (27.0ppg) of Slovenia and Jordan Clarkson (26.0ppg) of the Philippines, Markkanen's teammate with the Utah Jazz, were better.

Markkanen has now represented the Finns at the FIBA EuroBaskets in 2017 and 2022, respectively, and the World Cup, as well as various qualifying games and in numerous friendlies. He will play for Finland this summer at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Spain. 

Markkanen is averaging 23.6 points for Utah this season.

Another prominent figure at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, meanwhile, has claimed the Coach of the Year honor in Finland. Gordie Herbert claimed the award after leading Germany to their first title in the competition.

Herbert, who was born in Canada and played for his country at the 1984 Olympics and the 1986 World Cup in Spain, received Finnish citizenship in 1989. Finland is the country where he spent the majority of his professional playing career. He has also coached in the country.

A few weeks ago in December, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was honored as Canada's top athlete in 2023 and last week, Bogdan Bogdanovic was voted Serbian Player of the Year, demonstrating the importance of National Team competition in the public opinions.