From his fans among school kids in Spain to the world's most knowledgeable basketball experts, everyone knows him by a single name: Rudy. He arrived for his Euroleague Basketball debut with a world championships gold medal around his neck. Now, at the end of his first season, he has a one-of-kind award to call his very own. Rudy Fernandez of DKV Joventut has been chosen this season's Rising Star Trophy winner in a vote of Euroleague head coaches. The three-year old Rising Star Trophy recognizes the best Euroleague Basketball player who was younger than 22 on July 1 of the summer before the season started. Fernandez might very well lead the world in spectacular alley-oop dunks, but delighting fans is not all he did during his rookie season. In per-game averages, Fernandez also ranked second in three-pointers, fourth in scoring, sixth in steals and ninth in performance index rating. Most of all, his consistency and effectiveness helped make Joventut's return to
the Euroleague a successful one, as the team reached its goal, the Top 16, despite playing in one of the toughest regular season groups. His own teammate at Joventut, point guard Ricky Rubio, finished second in the voting for the award. Tiago Splitter of Tau Ceramica placed third and Kosta Perovic of Partizan fourth. The Rising Star Trophy is among several end-of-season honors awarded by Euroleague Basketball. Already announced has been the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy, which went to Igor Rakocevic of Tau Ceramica. The Best Defender Trophy is still to be awarded and the nominees for the all-Euroleague team announced. The all-Euroleague first and second teams, plus the Euroleague MVP, will be awarded at the Euroleague Official Dinner on Saturday, May 5, during the Final Four in Athens.
As a spectacular shooter and a key part of Joventut's risk-taking defense, Rudy had instant impact on the Euroleague. Joventut hosted the season's opening game and almost upset powerhouse Panathinaikos as Rudy buried 4 three-pointers. The next game, he ambushed another eventual Final Four team, making an alley-oop tip-in at the buzzer on a pass from out of bounds to beat Unicaja on the road. Later in the regular season, Joventut would defeat Unicaja by 53 points, the third-largest victory margin in Euroleague history. Along the way, Rudy was a remarkably consistent contributor for so young a player. He scored in double digits in all but one game in which he played more than 5 minutes. Indeed, except for a regular season game he appeared in briefly, but couldn't continue due to injury, he might have produced even better numbers. As it was, he ranked sixth in scoring with 16.2 points per game at the end of the round, with tremendous accuracy across the board: 67.3% on two-pointers, 46.2% on three-pointers and 80.4% on free throws. Joventut won seven games and finished third in its group. The Top 16 was less successful for Joventut, but Rudy was no less impressive. Although his shooting accuracy fell, he improved in rebounds, assists and steals, again ranking sixth among scorers while placing 12th for the round in overall performance rating. Fernandez is the first guard to win the Rising Star Trophy. He follows 2006 winner Andrea Bargnani of Benetton Treviso and 2005 winner Erazem Lorbek of Climamio Bologna. Fernandez will be awarded the Rising Star Trophy at the Euroleague Official Dinner in Athens on Saturday night of the Final Four.