Limoges CSP point guard Leo Westermann has already attached himself to a collection of clubs - including three former Euroleague champions, albeit one he has yet to play for - that would make any basketball player proud, but particularly a 22-year-old who has already overcome more adversity than many players face in a whole career.
Westermann began his career at France's famed INSEP development school and made the jump to the French League's most-decorated team ever, ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne, as a teenager. With ASVEL, Westermann had the honor of playing with - and giving up his number 9 jersey to - his idol, Tony Parker, when the international superstar and ASVEL co-owner played for the club during the NBA lockout in 2011.
"I took the number nine when I was about 10 years old because that was Tony’s number. I gave him the number nine because he is the reason I wear it," Westermann said. "It was a fantastic experience playing with Tony. I saw the leadership, the way he drives the team, his skills, how hard he works at every practice. All the time, he was talking with me, telling me what I have to do to improve my game. It was a very positive experience."
Westermann's confidence at a young age became apparent a year later when he reached the Turkish Airlines Euroleague in a unique way - by becoming the first French player ever to sign for a Serbian team, none other than Partizan NIS Belgrade. His move opened the door for his future French teammates there, Joffrey Lauvergne and Boris Dallo.
"I just wanted to play with a big club in the Euroleague," Westermann said at the time. "So I came to play, first of all, for the coach, Dusan Vujosevic, and for this historic club. I came because everyone knows that Serbian clubs are doing great with young players, helping them improve a lot and getting great results with this kind of young player."
The results with Westermann were evident as he started and played almost 29 minutes per Euroleague game for Partizan, averaging 9.6 points and 4.1 assists for a young team that could not make it out of the regular season. They nonetheless went on to take both the Adriatic and Serbian League titles together that year.
As much as his numbers, Westermann's poise as Partizan's team leader showed his great potential. The fact that Westermann stands as tall as many small forwards, 1.97 meters, means he can play multiple perimeter positions, but his heart is at the point guard spot.
"My character is a point guard character," he says. "I like to speak a lot on the court."
Westermann was well aware that some of the biggest names in the Euroleague were tall point guards who drove their teams to greatness.
"I watched a lot of Euroleague games and saw Papaloukas, Diamantidis and Jasikevicius," he said. "I grew up watching these players, so I learned a lot from seeing them."
Just being tall doesn't necessarily give a point guard an advantage, however, and Westermann has had to learn how to deal with smaller opponents.
"Everybody has his own qualities," he said. "For the small point guard, it's quickness. For me, it's my height. I can post up smaller players. It's difficult to play defense against quick point guards, but I learned in the French League a little how to guard them because all the point guards there are the quick type."
This time last year, early in his second season in Belgrade, Westermann was struck by adversity when he suffered the second major right-knee injury of his career. The first had kept him out six months just before he joined ASVEL in 2010. This time, the fifth Euroleague game of the 2013-14 regular season would be his last, but it didn't take long for Westermann to start looking forward.
"It was the second time I tore my ACL, and it was tough for two or three days after that, but fortunately I had my teammates, my family, to help me and cheer me up," Westermann recalled recently. "I am the kind of person who is always positive."
It shows how much promise Westermann has shown when healthy that two-time Euroleague champion FC Barcelona announced over the summer that it had acquired a preferential option on his future contract. Soon after, Westermann signed for this season with another former Euroleague champion, Limoges CSP, for its long-awaited return to the competition.
Still nine months away from his 23rd birthday, Westermann is now back in the role in which he looked so comfortable right away two years ago, starting at point guard and playing major minutes for a team looking to shock the rest of the Euroleague. After a victory by Limoges last week in its first Euroleague home game this century, Westermann's injury troubles seemed far away - and his future as bright as ever - just as he had said in the preseason.
"Just to come on the court, to make an assist to a teammate, to be on the court and feel the vibrations of basketball, it's a great feeling," he said. "You are reborn."