Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Adidas Next Generation Tournament
Rudy Fernandez, An MVP in more ways than one
Apr 13, 2008
One of the world's top young basketball stars enhanced his own growing legend with a victory in the ULEB Cup Final on Sunday with a performance that proved worthy both on and off the court. Although he was named final MVP in a vote by the media, Rudy Fernandez had piled up more and bigger numbers on many occasions than he did as DKV Joventut defeated Akasvayu Girona 54-79 in the title-game in Turin, Italy. This time, Fernandez came off the bench to score 13 points, pull 7 rebounds and make 3 steals, none of which was tops on his team. But what Fernandez scored in inspiration points and classy gestures during and after the game cannot be measured so easily.
First, Fernandez came off the bench because a nagging shoulder injury had recurred with a strange move during Joventut's shootaround practice earlier on Sunday. He had spent the rest of the day trying to calm the pain with treatment from team doctors, including the injection of painkillers, but was still not sure of playing soon before the final tipped off. He began the game the bench, but had to come in midway through the first quarter as Joventut fell behind 10-2. His arrival coincided with a turnaround that had less to do with his normally spectacular scoring than his defense.
"Our second step forward was when Rudy, who had to make an effort just to play today, started to do some things on defense, like the good defender he is, because after that everything started working for us," Joventut head coach Aito Garcia Reneses said afterward. "Earlier in the day, when we thought Rudy couldn't play, it was a little bit of a jolt for everyone, but without him, we knew we could still play well. We were prepared for the possibility, because he's been hurting for about three weeks. But when he came out and started defending well, like he can, everyone started to do the same. We went up from that point and dominated the rest of the game."
At one point in the third quarter, Fernandez got fouled going to the basked and doubled over in pain. Nonetheless, he went to the foul line, swished both free throws, and then came back on the next possession to hit a triple. Akasvayu never recovered.
"I think that in a final, there is no such thing as pain," Fernandez said afterward.
Based on his overall performance in the tournament, after having scored 27 points in the semifinal, Fernandez was voted the MVP. When he received the trophy, however, he ran straight over and handed it to center Jerome Moiso, who had anchored Jovenut's defense all game.
"For me and for everyone, I am sure, Jerome Moiso has been the most determinant player tonight, not only on offense, but on defense," Fernandez explained afterwards. "He stood up to Marc Gasol, one of the top centers in Europe. I just wanted to give him thanks for all that he did in this game to make sure we won. I think he deserved it."
His coach said the gesture told a lot about Fernandez, a reigning world champion for Spain whose individual skills usally keep all eyes on him every time he's on the court. He, however, was keeping his eyes on his teammate, Moiso.
"I imagine that Rudy was thinking he has too many MVP awards," Garcia Reneses joked. "But I think it was a great gesture. This is a team sport, even when we know that people sometimes try to convert it into an individual one, talking about the success of Rudy, the success of Ricky, of Moiso or of Aito. And that's not true. It's always the success of the team, even though someone might be more visible on a given day. Rudy taking the MVP trophy to Moiso is a great gesture. As a friend said to me recently, some players play for the name on the back of their jersey, and some play on the name on the front. That gesture of Rudy's showed that for all the ambition he has, he knows to be always with the team."