After belonging to the same player for five years, the Euroleague award for defensive excellence has a new owner as the competition's head coaches voted CSKA Moscow forward Viktor Khryapa the winner of this season's Best Defender Trophy! Khryapa convinced them with one of the most comprehensive and consistent defensive performances possible. Khryapa ranked first this season among all Euroleague players in both steals, with 2 per game, and defensive rebounds, with 5.5 on average. It is the first time every that anyone has led the competition in both categories. He was also eighth in blocked shots, at 1 per game. No other player ranked among the best 10 in steals, defensive rebounds and blocks. Khryapa accomplished all that and more while leading CSKA to its eighth consecutive Final Four. He was the anchor of a CSKA defense that ranked second in the competition, allowing just 70.5 points per game. What's more, Khryapa played the best defense of his career in a new position, power forward, where he moved early in the season to help cover the absence of Matjaz Smodis, due to injury. Khryapa won one of the closest votes for the award, edging out Regal FC Barcelona guard Ricky Rubio and Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos, who had won the award the first five years it was given. Following them, other top vote-getters included Barcelona big man Fran Vazquez, Khryapa’s teammate at CSKA, point guard J.R. Holden, and Maccabi Electra forward Stephane Lasme.
"I am happy to receive this award," Khryapa said from Moscow on Wednesday. "On one side, I am surprised to be voted by the head coaches, and on the other side, I think that my game is built on defense, so I am glad to see the recognition of that. I’d like to mention that CSKA was always known for great team defense and this prize is just another acknowledgment of that."
The Best Defender Trophy is the second of several end-of-season honors awarded by Euroleague Basketball. Already announced was the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy, awarded to Olympiacos forward Linas Kleiza. Others still to be announced include: the Euroleague Rising Star Trophy for players under 22, the All-Euroleague first and second teams and the Euroleague MVP. The last two will be revealed during the Final Four at the Euroleague Basketball Awards Ceremony on May 8 at the Euroleague Basketball Awards Ceremony at the Hotel De Ville in Paris. The Aleksander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy and the Euroleague Club Executive of the Year are post-season awards.
Khryapa’s defensive statistics only tell part of the story of his impact this season. Khryapa also ranked among the 10 best players this season in overall index rating (15.8 per game), assists (4.2 apg.) and three-point shooting accuracy (43.3%). He was the only player to start all 20 of CSKA's games so far and led the team in average minutes, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He ranked second on the team in index rating and fourth in scoring (10.1 ppg.). His dominance in the Top 16 and the start of the Quarterfinal Playoffs also earned him the Sportingbet March MVP honor. Furthermore, Khryapa’s prowess over the length of his career, which includes parts of five Euroleague seasons with CKSA, has started to place him among the best players of the decade. He has cracked the career top 10 in blocked shots earlier this season and enters the Final Four ranked ninth with 90 rejections.
Born in Kiev, Khryapa started his career with Khimik in Ukraine and Saratov in Russia before he joined CSKA, just before his 20th birthday, in the summer of 2002. Khryapa will be making his fifth trip to the Final Four next month in Paris, his first having come with CSKA in 2003. He subsequently played four years in the NBA, two each with Portland and Chicago. He returned to CSKA and won the Euroleague title in 2008 in Madrid. Khryapa is also a regular member of the Russian national team, with whom he won the gold medal at EuroBasket 2007. Khryapa will be presented with the Best Defender Trophy at the Euroleague Basketball Awards Ceremony on May 8 in Paris.