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Rising Star Trophy winner: Rudy Fernandez, DKV Joventut
Apr 24, 2007
by Javier Gancedo, Euroleague.net
He said before the season that playing in the Euroleague with his original club was a dream. Just being in the competition was not what he meant, however. Rudy Fernandez of DKV Joventut proved that it was Euroleague action he craved by playing so well that he won the post-season Rising Star Trophy in a vote of Euroleague head coaches. Fernandez ranked among the Euroleague's best 10 players in four different statistical categories, but it was his ability as a showman - with reels of highlights like his game-winning tip-in for Joventut's first victory - that set him apart. Already a world champion with Spain, Fernandez says that his rookie year of Euroleague competition has added to his incredible growth as a player. "Everything helps," Rudy told Euroleague.net. "It's true that you keep getting experience over the years and your mentality becomes stronger, too. You keep becoming a more mature player. I have to be very thankful to all my teammates and the coaching staff, because we made our Euroleague dreams come true."
Hello, Rudy. Congratulations for winning the Rising Star Trophy. What does it mean for you to win this award?
"Well, you don't start the competition looking for this award; it arrives after having a good season. Being able to win this award in my Euroleague debut means a lot to me: it is a great honor. It is a reward for all the hard work I did this season. I always say the same thing, but without my 11 teammates and the help they gave me, I would have never won this award."
At the beginning of the season, you said that one of your biggest dreams was playing in the Euroleague. Now that you've done so, what do you think about the competition?
"It is just what people say, the toughest competition in Europe. All the best teams in European basketball play the Euroleague. Some of those teams can even compete against the best teams in the world. The Euroleague demands you to play hard all the time, because every team can beat you. I believe Joventut had a good Euroleague season, since we reached some goals we didn't expect to reach in the beginning of the season. We made it to the Top 16 and even when we didn't advance to the playoff, we are proud of what we did and now we have to try to return to the competition next season."
You were one of the best scorers in the competition and helped Joventut reach the Top 16. How important was this Euroleague season for you?
"Being the top scorer in my team comes naturally, I have that responsability in this team. Everyone has his own role, and mine is scoring and rebounding. The whole team did a fantastic job in the Euroleague thie season and that allowed me to play at a good level."
You won the Rising Star award and your teammate Ricky Rubio was second in the coaches' voting. What does that say about the philosophy of Joventut and coach Aito Garcia Reneses to give playing time to talented young players?
"Well, I will always say that I owe Joventut a lot. The club gave me the opportunity to become the player that I am now. I always said that I wanted to play the Euroleague with Joventut. We made my dream come true by playing the Euroleague and like you said, everyone can see that, little by little, our reserve of young players always produces talent. Ricky Rubio proves it by being second in the Rising Star voting, and I believe he has plenty of time ahead of him to win this trophy."
In what ways have winning the World Championships with Spain and competing at such a high level in the Euroleague helped you to become a better player?
"Everything helps. It's true that you keep getting experience over the years and your mentality becomes stronger, too. You keep becoming a more mature player. I have to be very thankful to all my teammates and the coaching staff, because we made our Euroleague dreams come true and we hope to be back in the near future."
This season, you have faced all the Final Four teams: CSKA, Panathinaikos, Tau Ceramica and Unicaja. What can you tell us about them?
"They are all very strong teams, that's for sure. I think it is a surprise to see Unicaja in the Final Four, but they have played at a very high level in the Euroleague lately. It is a shame because it one of the Spanish teams, but I don't see Unicaja strong enough to compete for the Euroleague title. I think that CSKA, Panathinaikos and Tau are more prepared to do so."
Which is your prediction for this Final Four? Who do you think will win the title in Athens?
"My prediction? Well, I think that if if keeps playing the way it has so far, CSKA has most of the chances to win its second consecutive Euroleague title."