The first of the 2014-15 EFES Euroleague Awards, the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy, has been won by Nizhny Novgorod playmaker Taylor Rochestie, whose scoring exploits this season helped bring a rookie team all the way to the Top 16. The Ford Trophy is awarded to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague player who averages the most points over a minimum number of games. It is the only end-of-season award based solely on statistics, and by peppering baskets across Europe for 18.9 points over 21 games this season, Rochestie left no doubt about who deserved it most. Rochestie was a devastating weapon for Nizhny all season long; he scored in double figures every time he stepped on a Euroleague court, scored in the 20s eight times and reached 29 points on his best scoring night. It is the first Ford Trophy for Rochestie in his third Euroleague season. He had averaged 5.1 points in 14 Euroleague career games prior to this season.
Rochestie emerged as a scoring force for Nizhny early, especially on the road. He scored 16 points against Zalgiris in Kaunas and added 23 against Real Madrid in the Spanish capital. Rochestie netted 19 points in a home loss to Anadolu Efes, which dropped Nizhny’s record to 1-3. Rochestie helped the team bounce back with a 24-point effort in a road win against Unics Kazan in regular season Game 5. His best scoring night came against Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari in late November with 29 points to lead Nizhny to a critical 82-89 road win. He also had 22 points against Real Madrid to finish the regular season with a league-best scoring average of 20 points on 51.2% three-point shooting and 89.2% free throw accuracy. Things didn’t change in the Top 16, as Rochestie kept filling the baskets. He had 24 points both against Unicaja in Malaga and Laboral Kutxa in Vitoria, 22 against CSKA in Moscow and 21 in home games against EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and CSKA. Rochestie averaged 18.2 points in the Top 16 on 49.2% three-point shooting and 95.3% free throw shooting. He finished the season having made 82 of 158 two-point shots (51.9%), 53 of 106 from beyond the arc (50%) and 74 of 80 free throw attempts (92.5%). Rochestie also averaged 5.7 assists, including 15 in a win against Efes to establish a new Top 16 record. Boban Marjanovic of Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade was the runner-up in this season’s scoring race with 16.6 points per game, followed by Andrew Goudelock (16.4 ppg.) of Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, Milos Teodosic (15.043 ppg.) of CSKA Moscow and Devin Smith (15.040 ppg.) of Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv.
Rochestie has been a good scorer throughout his career, but this was his breakout season. A native of Houston, Texas, in the United States, Rochestie played college basketball at Tulane University and Washington State University, where he averaged 13.2 points during the 2008-09 season before becoming a professional player. He helped German side Goettingen win the 2010 EuroChallenge title with 14.7 points over 16 games, and also played for Galatasaray in Turkey, ALBA Berlin of Germany and Le Mans Sarthe Basket of France before making his Euroleague debut with Caja Laboral Vitoria during the 2012-13 campaign. Rochestie averaged 1.5 points over four games before moving to Angelico Biella, but he returned to the Euroleague with another Italian team, Montepaschi Siena, last season. He joined Nizhny in January 2014 and looked comfortable right away. Rochestie averaged 14.3 points over 12 Eurocup games and helped the team reach the VTB League finals and the Eurocup semifinals. Rochestie has also been a member of the Montenegrin national team.
Rochestie is the first Ford Trophy winner from a VTB League club and the ninth Ford Trophy winner since the award’s inception in 2005. The list of previous Ford Trophy winners includes, Igor Rakocevic, who is the award’s only three-time winner (2007, 2009, 2011); Keith Langford of EA7 Emporio Armani Milan (2014); Bobby Brown (2013) and Bo McCalebb (2012), both of Montepaschi Siena; Linas Kleiza of Olympiacos (2010); Marc Salyers of Chorale Roanne (2008); Drew Nicholas of Benetton Treviso (2006); and Charles Smith of Scavolini Pesaro (2005).
The trophy is named in memory of Alphonso Ford, who died of leukemia in September 2004 after a brilliant career in which he was the competition’s leading scorer twice, in 2000-01 and 2001-02, both seasons with Olympiacos. He subsequently led 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 awards to be announced shortly include the Euroleague Best Defender Trophy, the Euroleague Rising Star Trophy and the All-Euroleague honorees. The bwin MVP award will be announced at the EFES Euroleague Awards Ceremony on Thursday, May 14 during the Final Four in Madrid. The Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy and the Euroleague Club Executive of the Year are post-season awards.