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Tau's Rakocevic wins race for Alphonso Ford Trophy
The Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy, awarded annually to the Euroleague player with the most points averaged over a minimum number of games, has been won by Igor Rakocevic of Tau Ceramica following the closest finish in the three-year history of the prize. The award is named for the late Euroleague star who still holds the competition's record for highest average points per game. The Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy is the only end-of-season Euroleague award based purely on statistics. This year's award winner wasn't known until the last possible day and fell to Rakocevic by the difference of a single basket over the course of the entire season. Rakocevic was able to claim the award by averaging 16.85 points per game, the highest of any Euroleague player who appeared in 12 games or more, the minimum standard for this award. Rakocevic used long-distance shooting to achieve his impressive scoring numbers. Despite missing two Top 16 games, his total of 62 three-point shots made for the season were at least 10 more than all but one other Euroleague player. Rakocevic also led the 10 most prolific three-point shooters this season in accuracy, making 47.7% of his shots from the arc. He ranked fourth overall in three-point accuracy despite tying for the most attempts, 130, from that distance. Juan Carlos Navarro of Winterthur FC Barcelona was the regular season top scorer (18 ppg.) and led the overall scoring race for most of the season. In fact, he needed to score 11 points in Game 3 of the Quarterfinal Playoffs series against Unicaja to win the trophy, but he had just 9 in that game and finished second to Rakocevic at 16.77 points per game. Rakocevic's Tau teammate, Luis Scola, who had broken the all-time Euroleague scoring mark during the season, finished third (16.05 ppg.), Rudy Fernandez of DKV Joventut fourth (15.79 ppg.) and Predrag Drobnjak of Belgrade fifth (15.7 ppg.).
Rakocevic follows Drew Nicholas and the trophy's first winner, Charles Smith, most recently the ULEB Cup Final MVP with Real Madrid, to become the first European to win the award. Alphonso Ford died of leukemia in September 2004 after a career in which he was the competition's top scorer twice, in 2000-01 and 2001-02, both seasons with Olympiacos. He subsequently led Montepaschi Siena in scoring as it reached the 2003 Final Four in its debut Euroleague season. The Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy is the first in a series of Euroleague end-of-season honors. Other to be announced shortly include: the Euroleague Rising Star Trophy for players under 22, the Euroleague Best Defender Trophy, the All-Euroleague first and second team, and the Euroleague MVP, the last two to be revealed at the Euroleague Gala Dinner on May 5 during the Final Four in Athens. The Aleksander Gomelski Coach of the Year Trophy and the Euroleague Club Executive of the Year are post-season awards.
The Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy highlights an already successful career for Rakocevic, who recently turned 29 years old. He has been both a World Champion and a European Champion as a national team player for Yugoslavia. He had also won the Yugoslav League title with two different clubs, Crvena Zvezda and KK Buducnost. After playing for Minnesota of the NBA for a season, Rakocevic returned to Crvena Zvezda for 2003-04 and became the Adriatic League's top scorer (23.2 ppg.) that season. The following year, with Pamesa Valencia, he was the Spanish League's second best average scorer. Rakocevic moved to Real Madrid for the 2005-06 season, finishing 12th among Euroleague point-makers. After joining Tau Ceramica over the summer, he scored in double digits in all but one of his 20 Euroleague games this season. Rakocevic averaged 16.4 points while making 46.2% of his three-pointers in 14 regular season games, ranking fifth overall while reaching the 20-point mark five times. He had a regular-season high of 23 points three different times - against Dynamo Moscow and Olympiacos in Vitoria, as well as against Climamio in Bologna. He opened the Top 16 with 19 points while making 5 of 6 three-pointers as Tau defeated Maccabi in Tel Aviv. Despite missing a couple of Top 16 games, Rakocevic finished that phase ranked second, with 16.5 points on average, behind Alex Scales of Aris. Rakocevic did even better in the Quarterfinal Playoff series against Olympiacos, posting a season-best 24 points while again downing 5 of 6 triples in Game 1. He then scored 17 to help Tau to sweep the series in Game 2 in Athens. With Tau already in the Final Four, Rakocevic had to wait and see what Navarro did in Game 3 of his series, but finally claimed the award as the Euroleague's third Alphonso Ford Scorer Trophy winner.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
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