WE ARE BACK IN THE EUROLEAGUE! Unicaja is back! After a one-year absence, we are back in the EuroLeague as the champion of the EuroCup – the second best competition in Europe. This is a place that belongs to us and our fans. Since 2001 Unicaja has been in the EuroLeague almost all of the time. But now the EuroLeague has a totally different format. Many years ago you played a group phase and could get eliminated after 10 games. Or advance to the Top 16 and play six more games before the Euroleague playoffs. You couldn’t play all the teams. Today you face all the teams and all the best players from the best leagues in Europe. Thirty really hard and exciting games and every one of them can matter at the end of the regular season. We are writing our own history and fighting for our next goals and dreams. It’s really great to be here!
In the past I played two games in the EuroLeague with Prokom Trefl Sopot. I was 18 at the time and we had an amazing team by Polish League standards. Milan Gurovic, Donatas Slanina, Dajuan Wagner, Travis Best, Pape Sow, Ruben Wolkovyski, Mustafa Shakur, Tomas Masiulis, Christos Harissis and of course, last but not least, Filip Dylewicz. Los Galacticos in Poland! I remember I scored 4 points against Montepaschi Siena ;) It was an amazing experience. And now I’m watching Luka Doncic who is 18 and is dominating this league. I cannot believe it. I cannot imagine myself playing at that time like Doncic right now. He’s a freak of nature. Very confident and he believes that nobody can stop him. He will be a superstar! Oh wait, isn’t he already a star? Winning the EuroBasket and being in the best five of the tournament? I’m telling you: freak of nature.
When I was coming from Poland to Spain I had one goal: to advance to a team that will fight for championships and will play in the EuroLeague. And here I am. After two years at Obradoiro from Santiago, I got the opportunity to sign with one of the best teams in Spain: Unicaja. As we were fighting all season long, we had ups and downs, as a dark horse and a newcomer to the EuroCup, we won the trophy under very hard circumstances. But we won the championship! And we earned a spot in today’s EuroLeague. The best team in the EuroCup, EuroLeague team, Unicaja Malaga. I’m very proud of what we accomplished. And happy to be a part of this amazing team.
And for our EuroLeague home opener, it was … EuroCup champ versus EuroLeague champ. More or less, the EuroLeague SuperCup. Last Thursday we won a small cup in our heads. It will be a huge boost for us and for the future. We will never give up. Malaga no se rinde! This was the main hashtag for our team last year. Never give up! Maybe one day a game for SuperCup will happen. What do you think Mr. Jordi Bertomeu? :)
It was a stunning game. The arena was full. I knew we were gonna play a great game. I just knew it. When the fans from Fenerbahce entered the gym around 40 minutes before the game, I knew it would be hot. And it was, to the very end. We trailed for most of the game, but a great run in the third and fourth quarter gave us the big and important win. It is amazing how one basket can change the mood. I was thinking about it. We won 68-67 and the gym just exploded. But if Kostas Sloukas would have made that last shot, it would be 68-69 and all of us would be like at a funeral. A big funeral with 11,000 people. Only one basket. But this is the beauty of basketball. Anything can happen.
I will not bore you with game statistics or top 10 plays. That’s the job of journalists. I’m a basketball player, so I will tell a few things about our basketball life. Because the fans only see the games and this is what matters. But to play those games we need to work hard for two months just to get to this point. So for us, it’s like a cherry on a cake and to play good in these games we need to take care of ourselves.
As you know, traveling is a part of our job. It’s not holidays for us, no break, no sightseeing, no, no, no. Totally different story. We have meetings, we need to eat at certain hours, so our private time is limited almost to zero. We go on a trip to play against a tough team, noisy crowd, different baskets and court. Many times after looooong trips. And we need to make our bodies work the right way because we don’t want to be smashed. We want to win like every other game. We need to be in the best shape possible. Like if it was a home game. Sometimes we don’t have enough time to go to the gym or weight room, we don’t have space in our hotel rooms to work out. So we need to find a way to get our body right. So we… stretch outside of the rooms, sitting on the carpet and making our bodies loose :) So when you will see a tall person stretching in the hallway and trying to act natural, it means he’s a professional athlete.
Speaking of trips, in the Spanish League many times we travel like this: in a train, comfortable seats and wifi all the way :) Imagine if there would be a train going from Malaga to Moscow in five hours. It would be amazing! Who knows, maybe one day that will happen. Too bad Steve Jobs didn’t invent a teleport in the iPhone. But 10 years ago the first iPhone was released and now? We have a full glass iPhone! So what can happen in the next 10 years? You don’t know. Hopefully, they will invent something to shorten up the trips for basketball players. Haha.
Until the next time. Thanks for spending some time to read this. Have fun and good luck. Vamos Unicaja!