| Going from a little-known player outside Spain to become the Euroleague's 15th-ranked performer last season seemed like a big enough jump for Caja Laboral swingman Fernando San Emeterio. Big enough, that is, until he kept surprising people further. His coast-to-coast basket clinched the Spanish League title for Caja Laboral, denying a triple crown to Euroleague champion Regal FC Barcelona. This summer, San Emeterio joined the mighty Spanish national team at the World Championships for the first time. And already this season, he's had a 30-point performance against another Euroleague team in a Spanish League game. Now 26 years old, San Emeterio is suddenly among the team leaders as Caja Laboral heads into the new Turkish Airlines Euroleague season next week. But before that happens, he and Caja Laboral are on the Euroleague American Tour 2010 this week, both playing NBA opponents for the first time. They open up Thursday against the Memphis Grizzlies and finish Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs. San Emeterio wouldn't mind springing another surprise across the ocean. "We always have a great desire to win, but it will be difficult to make it happen," he told Euroleague.net before leaving. "One thing is for sure: we will try."
Since your shot won the Spanish League to playing in the World Championships and now going to face NBA opponents in the U.S., you've been pretty busy, Fernando. What's it like keeping up this rhythm?
"It's true, it's been a few months with a lot of things happening, both sports-wise and, between everything, me getting married this summer. It's been non-stop, but all in a positive way. I am happy and I just hope that the rhythm of good things happening continues."
Did you ever expect these things to happen someday when you were playing your way up the ladder?
"The truth is I didn't. I just kept practicing and enjoyed basketball. As you get older, you think maybe I can become a pro. But I never thought of these kinds of things: playing in the Euroleague, at a World Championships and now against NBA teams. It's all great, beautiful, and I am just trying to enjoy it while it lasts."
To many people, you were a big surprise last season, especially after playing little your first Euroleague season with the team. Did you surprise yourself?
"I have to admit it was a strange year. I started playing a lot more minutes than I expected early in the season because of injuries on the team. I took advantage of that opportunity, and with the confidence I got from those first games, continued working. Everything kept rolling and finished with the basket to win the Spanish League, which was like the cherry on top. It was like being in a movie, both for me and other people around me. I just hope it continues."
How about this year’s Caja Laboral team, and the jelling process with new teammates like David Logan, Nemanja Bjelica and others?
"Little by little we will get better. A lot of us were playing late in the World Championships and had little time to train so far with our teammates, new or old. But little by little we are sure to jell and get better. This trip to the United States will help with that process: being together, trying different things on the court and playing against physical teams to see how we compete."
What are your expectations for these games in the 2010 Euroleague American Tour?
"We know that it's going to be very difficult to win against either Memphis or San Antonio, but we're going with the hope of trying to win against one of them. Above all for us, it's important to prepare well and compete, because so far we haven't done as well as we would like in a part because of the delay in some of us returning from our national teams. These will be two good tests for us, and important ones as far as how we play together."
What will it be like for you to play against former teammates like Marc Gasol and Tiago Splitter?
"Personally, it will be very nice to have a chance to play against them. Besides being ex-teammates, I am very good friends with both of them. We already spoke about how special it will be to face each other in this kind of game. I feel good to be facing them in that NBA setting, and I think they feel the same way."
Does the fact that Juan Carlos Navarro and Barcelona beat his friend, Pau Gasol, and the Lakers make you want to do the same?
"We always have a great desire to win, but it will be difficult to make it happen. Memphis and San Antonio are further into their preseason, and although the fact that we started earlier gives us a little advantage, it will still be complicated to beat them. One thing is for sure: we will try."
Looking ahead to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, your group now has Khimki to go with Maccabi, Partizan, Prokom and Zalgiris. Is that tough enough for you?
"It's a very difficult group, with lots of teams that done big things and gone far in the Euroleague in recent years. Every game will be extremely important and any team will have to suffer to reach the top of the standings: that much is clear. We will have to start well at home against Maccabi and stay ahead from the start."
In the last two years, both teams that went on the Euroleague American Tour - Partizan and Olympiacos last season, CSKA and Barcelona in 2008 - reached the Final Four. Will that history repeat itself for Caja Laboral?
"I hope so, for sure. To go to another Final Four will be beautiful for our club, and also for those of us who haven't made it there yet. But we have a lot of hard work to do first. For sure, a trip like this - a week away with everyone staying together - is always positive for the group. I think it will be great for us in a lot of ways, both on the court and off."