The first of the 2013-14 EFES Euroleague Awards, the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy, has been won by EA7 Emporio Armani guard Keith Langford, whose point-scoring exploits this season helped bring an unheralded team to the brink of a surprise Final Four appearance.
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 17.56 points over 24 games this season, Langford left no doubt about who deserved it most. Langford was a devastating weapon for Milan all season long; he scored in double figures in every game of the Top 16 and playoffs, scored in the 20s nine times and reached at least 28 points on four occasions. It is the first Ford Trophy for Langford, who has averaged more points than any other Euroleague player over the past five seasons.
Langford started the season with a 20-point game at Anadolu Efes Istanbul, but both he and Milan struggled to find consistency in the season’s first month. Then, however, Langford totaled 76 points over a three-game stretch in November; Milan won two of those games and lost the third in the closing seconds. He finished the regular season with 16.2 points per game, fourth best in that stage. Langford proved himself a true force by scoring 29 points as Milan ended reigning champion Olympiacos Piraeus’s undefeated season until then with a 30-point home win in Round 2 of the Top 16. Three games later, Langford moved atop the season-long scoring charts and remained there the rest of the way. His 18.82 points per game in the Top 16 was at least 2 points better than the next player. Langford then averaged a playoffs-best 17.5 points in a series against his former team, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, but Milan was eliminated in four games. For the season, he made 88 of 182 two-point shots (48.4%) and shot 48 for 132 attempts from downtown (36.4%). Langford led the league in both free throws made (119) and attempted (156) while converting 76.3% from the foul line. Justin Dentmon of Zalgiris Kaunas was the runner-up in this season’s scoring race with 16.79 points per game, followed by Vassilis Spanoulis (15.08 ppg.) of Olympiacos, Bojan Bogdanovic (14.79 ppg.) of Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul and Bogdan Bogdanovic (14.78 ppg.) of Partizan NIS Belgrade.
Langford has been a prolific scorer at every stage of his career. A native of Fort Worth, Texas in the United States, Langford was a college basketball star at the University of Kansas, which he led to back-to-back NCAA Final Four appearances before starting his professional career. His first European experience came with Vanoli Soresiina of the Italian second division, for whom he scored 19.7 points per game in 2006-07. After splitting the next season between San Antonio in the NBA and Biella in Italy, Langford committed himself to excelling in European basketball. He won the 2009 FIBA EuroChallenge with Virtus Bologna and first sampled the Euroleague with Khimki Moscow Region, where he spent two years and helped the team win the 2011 VTB United League. One season with Maccabi was enough to add a trio of titles to his cupboard: the 2012 Adriatic League and the Israeli League and Cup double. Langford signed with Milan in the summer of 2012.
Langford is the third straight Ford Trophy winner from an Italian League club and the fifth since the award’s inception in 2005. The list of previous Ford Trophy winners includes, Igor Rakocevic, the award’s only three-time winner (2007, 2009, 2011), 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).
Alphonso Ford died of leukemia in September 2004 after a 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 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 revealed at the EFES Euroleague Awards Ceremony on Thursday, May 15. The Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy and the Euroleague Club Executive of the Year are post-season awards.