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Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy: Igor Rakocevic, Efes Pilsen
April 19, 2011
The first Turkish Airlines Euroleague post-season award, the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy, given annually to the Euroleague player with the most points averaged over a minimum number of games, has been won by Igor Rakocevic of Efes Pilsen. Rakocevic, a former world champion, becomes the first player to win the Ford Trophy three times; in fact, no one else has done so more than once since the award debuted in 2005. Rakocevic was the Ford Trophy winner also in 2007 and 2009, the year he made it to the All-Euroleague team. This season, Rakocevic earned what is the Euroleague's only post-season award based solely on statistics thanks to his scoring average of 17.21 points over a total of 14 games. He scored in double digits in 13 of his 14 Euroleague games this season and went beyond the 20-point mark five times. Rakocevic was very effective from beyond the new, longer three-point line, hitting 43.5% of his shots there. No player had a higher percentage while attempting as many three-pointers, 62, as Rakocevic. At the end of the season, Rakocevic ranked second in scoring average this century among players with 100 or more Euroleague games. What's more, his career rate of .56 points per minute ranks eighth all-time and first for players with more than 100 Euroleague games since 2000. He is currently the seventh top scorer in competition history with 2,149 total points.
Rakocevic opened the regular season with a 23-point effort against Union Olimpija and went on to score 20 and 17 points in consecutive home wins against Power Electronics Valencia and Armani Jeans Milano, respectively. Rakocevic kept filling baskets all around the continent, but especially at Sinan Erdem Arena, the new home court of Efes this season. He had 21 points against CSKA and added 18 against Panathinaikos to help Efes record two quality home wins. Rakocevic was the fourth-best scorer at the end of the regular season with 15.8 points per game. Once in the Top 16, Rakocevic had 23 points as Efes downed Partizan mt:s in Belgrade and added a season-high 24 points against Montepaschi in Siena. He was the second-best scorer in the Top 16, with 19.8 points on average, trailing only Juan Carlos Navarro of Regal FC Barcelona.
By the time he and Efes were eliminated, Rakocevic had made 48 of 102 two-point shots, 27 of 62 three-pointers and 64 of 73 free throws to total 241 points in 14 games. Mirza Teletovic of Caja Laboral was second in the top scoring race with 14.2 points on average, Navarro third (14.07 ppg.), Kenny Gregory of Union Olimpija fourth (14 ppg.) and Joel Freeland of Unicaja fifth (13.87 ppg.). On other Euroleague career records list, Rakocevic moved into 8th place this season with 223 three-pointers made and is fourth in free throws made (513) since the competition started in 2000.
Rakocevic joins Linas Kleiza of Olympiacos (2010), Marc Salyers of Chorale Roanne (2008), Drew Nicholas of Benetton Treviso (2006)and the trophy's first winner, Charles Smith of Scavolini Pesaro (2005), to become the fifth player to win the award in seven years. 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 Best Defender Trophy, the Euroleague Rising Star Trophy for players under 22 on July 1, 2010, and the All-Euroleague first and second team nominees. The All-Euroleague teams and the Sportingbet MVP for 2010-11 will be revealed at the EFES Pilsener Euroleague Awards Ceremony on May 7 during the Final Four in Barcelona. The Aleksander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy and the Euroleague Club Executive of the Year are post-season awards.
His third Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy is yet another highlight in Rakocevic's outstanding career. Rakocevich has always been an all-around shooter with unlimited range and superb one-on-one skills since his early days at Crvena Zvezda, with whom he won the Yugoslav League title in 1998. Rakocevic moved to Buducnost in 2001, averaging 14 points in his first Euroleague season while adding domestic league and cup titles. Rakocevic also filled the baskets with his national team, winning consecutive gold medals with Yugoslavia at EuroBasket 2001 and the 2002 FIBA World Championships. After a brief stop in the NBA with Minnesota, Rakocevic returned to Europe with Crvena Zvezda. There, he became the 2003-04 Adriatic League's top scorer (23.2 ppg.) and winner of the Serbia and Montenegro Cup in epic fashion, as Crvena Zvezda survived several overtimes. Rakocevic moved to Pamesa Valencia and became the Spanish League second top scorer (21 ppg.) while also leading the team to the ULEB Cup semifinals. He joined Real Madrid in summer 2005, for one season, and played three seasons with Tau Ceramica - now Caja Laboral - before joining Efes Pilsen. Not only did he win the Ford Trophy twice with Tau, but they also lifted a Spanish League trophy, a Spanish King's Cup and three Spanish Supercup titles together, and reached Euroleague Final Fours in 2007 and 2008. Rakocevic was named to the All-Euroleague Second Team in 2006-07 and was chosen to the first team in 2008-09. He bounced back from what, for him, was an underwhelming 2009-10 scoring season, with just 10 points per game for Efes, to re-establish himself as one of the game's pre-eminent scorers. Rakocevic will receive the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy at the EFES Pilsener Euroleague Awards Ceremony on May 7.
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