I have to say I am excited. I am about to play my first EuroLeague game. I can guarantee it has not been easy at all. Less than four years ago, I was playing in the Spanish second division, but things have gone very well for me. Everything has moved very fast since I was playing in Huesca and traveling by bus for many hours all around Spain to play here and there. We had to go up and down, travel for 12 or 13 hours to play a game - and three seasons later, here I am, ready to play in the EuroLeague against Panathinaikos, no less! If someone had told me all the good things that were waiting for me, I would not have believed it.
I am not the most famous player in Europe, not by any chance! So I will tell you how my basketball career changed in the last three years. I reached the kind of goals that you dream of, but didn't think they could be done, especially in four years. I signed for Baloncesto Sevilla, where I had the luck to play alongside Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez, who are in the NBA now. I was there for two years and made my EuroCup debut. After that, I joined Valencia Basket and had a fantastic season there, a historic one and played in three finals. We lost the Copa del Rey title game against Real Madrid and then the EuroCup Finals, very painfully, against Unicaja. If you watched those games, you know what I am talking about. We bounced back by winning the club's first-ever Spanish League title. I signed for FC Barcelona this summer, in which I also made my Spanish national team debut. I had the opportunity to win a bronze medal at EuroBasket 2017! Like I said, everything has happened very fast and it is hard to look back and think about it.
At the same time, I am aware that I earned all of it, nobody gave me anything for free; I just went out there and made the most of my opportunities. All this success came through very hard work, effort and sacrifice. Okay, you need to be a little bit lucky sometimes to be in the right place at the right time. I made the most out of the chances I got, which is very important. You have to work for endless hours, not only during the season but in the summer, too. Without it, nothing else would have happened. I take my summer work very seriously. This is the first summer in which I didn't work on my game as much as I could, but it was because I was with the Spanish national team, which is another way of getting better as a player. Still, I didn't have time to work on things I would like to have done, but the experience was completely worth it. Success will not change me, I know I have to work harder than anyone else, and summers are very important for me to keep improving.
I have always fought hard for every jersey I wore in my career and given my best, as much as I could for all of them. With that in mind, I have been a Barcelona fan since I was a kid and wearing this jersey, with this logo, is truly special for me. Most of my football and basketball idols growing up played for Barça. It is an honor to share our locker room with Juan Carlos Navarro, who is a reference for me. Just thinking about it gives me chills! I also had chills the way I was introduced as a Barcelona player, and the first time I wore this jersey in an official game last Sunday. Like I said, I had a lot of heroes in this club. I was 10 when we won our first EuroLeague title in 2003 with Patrick Femerling, Navarro, Dejan Bodiroga, 'Saras'... It was a great team! I also remember most of the players that were with the team in 2010, when we won the second EuroLeague trophy in Paris: Navarro, Lakovic, Basile, Ricky, Ndong, Fran Vazquez, Pete Mickeal, Morris, Lorbek, Grimau, Trias... They were the best team in Europe!
One of the things I like about the mixed zone is that there are big posters of those two teams, plus other successful squads in other sports such as handball, hockey, and indoor football. You see that every day! We last won the EuroLeague in 2010 and maybe we could repeat history in the near future. Of course, we will have to work really hard and do pretty much everything right, but I truly believe I am in the right place, in the perfect place to reach that goal. Barcelona always has to fight for the biggest goals, and for every win. You are forced to do it because of the tradition this jersey and this club has, and you can see it every day when you go to work.
Like I said, everything happened so fast. It was not until last season that I thought I would be able to play the EuroLeague. When I joined Valencia, the goal was to play in the EuroLeague as soon as possible. Okay, the team was in the EuroCup, which is also a very strong, very difficult competition, but my goal was to be able to play the EuroLeague and face the best players and the best teams in Europe. I knew for a fact that Valencia was a team very capable of making it to the EuroLeague, and we actually did that; we brought the club to the biggest competition. Now I am a EuroLeague player… and I can't wait to be out there, fighting against the best!
Everyone around me is very surprised, too, with how my career has changed in barely three years. I have to say everyone is surprised but one of my agents, Paco Lopez. He is the only person who is not surprised, who always saw great potential in me, something special. He put all his trust in me and of course, he keeps saying now that he always believed this would happen! He believes I was always ambitious and willing to work really hard, and that it all had to pay off one day. He always tells me that! Everyone else is surprised - family, friends, even myself! Yes, I took giant steps, but I want to take more and if I want to do that, I have to keep improving and polishing my game. Every season has been better than the previous one until now, and the goal is to keep playing well in the EuroLeague. It is obvious that teams know me better now and what I am capable of, but it is a very attractive opportunity for me. I am playing the EuroLeague; I have to give my best and hope to be a good EuroLeague player for many years!
I am a big football fan, too! I love football, and being here is great. I am looking forward to meeting most of our football players, but to tell you the truth, there are two players I really, really want to talk to. One of them is Gerard Pique, who is a big basketball fan. The other one, of course, is the God of Football, the best player of all-time: Leo Messi! I already met Messi and took a picture with him after one of their games, but of course, I would love to know him a little bit better. Again, he is the best player of all-time, and he is right here with us! I would also love to sit down with Pique, have coffee and talk about whatever he wants, life in general.
Until next time... Som-hi Barça!