Turkish Airlines Euroleague
June 19, 2013
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Tel Aviv 2004
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Euroleague.net profile: Berni Rodriguez, Unicaja
Some players are marked as stars at a very young age, while others work hard to improve each year, battling to get better even as they help their team in every possible way. Berni Rodriguez belongs to this second group, but in either, very few players can say they've had his success. At age 27, Rodriguez is a reigning world champion and was so as a junior as well; he has won Spanish League and European trophies; and he has reached the Euroleague Final Four - all without leaving his hometown and original club Born and raised in Malaga, Berni and his good friend Carlos Cabezas have gone from promising local kids to European basketball stars and reigning World Champions with the Spanish national team. This summer, his commitment to the Malaga community and to basketball came together in a unique way as Rodriguez - known only as Berni throughout southern Spain - was chosen to organize a one-of-a-kind summer course at the University of Malaga in July. With Berni and some of his World Champion teammates and coaches as lecturers, dozens of students at the university had the chance to see basketball the way professionals do. "I think it was a great experience for everyone, but especially for our students," Berni said. "Not a lot of people know how we live and only pay attention at what we do on court. This was a chance to see everything surrounding professional basketball and it was a fun, interesting thing to do."
The course was named "Basketball: A Social Phenomenon" and the idea came from the University of Malaga, where Berni has remained a student during his basketball career. "I am still studying at the university, at my own rhythm," he said. "They contacted me and told me that they had several summer courses available, which I knew very well. They wanted to do a basketball course at their campus in Ronda and they offered me the chance to put it together. My mission was coordinating everything, getting guests and organizing a five-day course, with two speakers and a round-table discussion each day from Monday to Friday."
Berni had several months to organize the course and managed to bring an all-star lineup of players, coaches, referees, agents, lawyers, journalists and contributors. Some of the bigger names in the course were former All-Euroleague center Jorge Garbajosa, Spanish national team assistant coach Joan Creus, Euroleague referee Daniel Hierrezuelo or the very same Berni Rodriguez, who spoke the final day. Basketball rules, sports law, the educational value of basketball, technical aspects, the world of agents, the basketball experience or life after basketball were some of the subjects that dozens of students - and fans - heard about. Everyone was able to stop a speech to ask something in a laid-back, entertaining atmosphere in Ronda, a central hill town in Andalusia famous for being situated on a precipice.
Berni was around during the entire week-long course to supervise everything. "I tried to offer as many points of view as possible, but it is difficult to offer all you can give in just ten speeches and five round-table discussions," Berni said. "The main goal was for all students to learn what basketball is about, and that our world is way more that what you see on court. I had to speak the final day along with German Gabriel and Garbajosa, and we ended up telling anecdotes and answering any and all questions. It was a great day."
Rodriguez had no trouble finding guest "professors" among his friends in basketball. Creus, a former player, assistant Spanish national team coach and a Euroleague.net blogger last season, loved the experience and enjoyed his time in Ronda. "Berni got in touch with me months before, telling me that he wanted to give a global, yet simple vision of our sport so that everyone would get involved," Creus said. "We all worked in the same direction. There was a round table every day but we got the students involved in our lectures. I was also chosen to join a round-table talk about life once your playing days are over, what happens and which problems you can find and how to solve them. It is a very interesting topic, because players don't think much about the future when they are still active. Berni coordinated everything and I saw him really involved."
Another speaker Berni called on was Hierrezuelo, a well-known Euroleague referee also born in Malaga. "Berni called me and explained his own project, and told me he counted on me to offer the referee point of view, our world and how we live," Hierrezuelo explained. "My round table also featured Jose Luis Llorente, president of the Spanish Players' Association and Miquel Sola, a basketball agent, to see our different point of views. It was a very interesting experience, as we all explained the way we work and how we see basketball. I already told Berni that it was a great experience and very attractive for everyone, and that I hope it takes place again in the near future because we all enjoyed our time in Ronda. Seeing young students paying so much attention in summer and taking active part in all the talks was very satisfying."
As Unicaja's team captain, Berni is never afraid of taking responsibilities but speaking in front of dozens of people in his own course was a new experience for him. "When you shoot a decisive free throws you are not as aware of things as you are when you speak in front of an audience," he said. "A free throw just takes a moment and it's much longer when you are standing in front of the people, but I loved the experience."
Now, he is looking to repeat the experience. "It has been almost like holiday to me, first because I enjoyed the experience a lot, and also because it took place in a great city like Ronda," he said. "I hope that the University of Malaga will call me back to organize a second course. That way, we could try to speak about some new things."
Friday, October 05, 2007
Javier Gancedo, Euroleague.net
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