Profile: Pau Ribas, Valencia Basket

Apr 07, 2014 by Javier Gancedo, Print
Profile: Pau Ribas, Valencia Basket
Pau Ribas - Valencia Basket - EC13 (photo Miguel Angel Polo - Valencia Basket)

Few players his age have been playing pro basketball for such a long time as Pau Ribas, a young veteran who is looking for his second Eurocup title right now, this time with Valencia Basket. Ribas has been critical to Valencia's run this far in the Eurocup, especially in the elimination rounds. One week after his 27th birthday, he hit a go-ahead five-meter jumper in Game 2 of the eighthfinals against Khimki Moscow Region that allowed Valencia to stay alive in dramatic fashion. Last week, Ribas shined with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists in an 84-75 home win in Game 1 of the semifinals against Nizhny Novgorod. Ribas has come off the bench to average 8.6 points on 47.2% three-point shooting and 3.2 assists this season, providing intangibles like leadership, experience, hustle and on-the-ball defense to quickly become a favorite of Valencia's fans.

It was Ribas's destiny to play basketball. His father, Jordi Ribas, was a pro who helped Joventut Badalona win its second Spanish League title in 1978. Pau Ribas started to breathe basketball soon after he was born: his father loved it, the whole city was into it and Pau joined Joventut at age 5. In fact, Ribas is the only player to reach Joventut's first team after playing for each and every youth team in the club. By October 2005, Ribas made his Spanish League debut with Joventut, shortly after having made his Spanish national team debut at the U18 European Championships.

A young Pau Ribas in Joventut jersey (Photo: Pau Ribas)"I started in the Escola de Basquet and came because I liked basketball and my parents wanted me to play sports," Ribas has said. "I practiced really hard for a long time to make my dream come true, which was reaching Joventut's first team. I remember my junior years with coach Sergi Vives. That's when I realized that if I wanted to make it, I had to work really hard in order to improve."

Unlike other top prospects like Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio, Ribas was not a fulltime member of the first team, as he also played for Joventut's sister team, Club Basquet Prat, leading it to the Spanish fourth division title in 2005-06. That season, he also helped Joventut win the FIBA EuroChallenge title, scoring 4 points in 5 minutes of the title game against Khimki Moscow Region. After another season playing for Prat and Joventut, head coach Aito Garcia Reneses opted to bring on Ribas as a fulltime member of his lifelong club's first roster. In 2007, Ribas helped Spain get a silver medal at the U20 European Championships, averaging 14.4 points, 3.5 points and 1.6 steals as one of the best players in the tournament.

Head coach Garcia Reneses has a reputation for giving well-deserved playing time to homegrown players and Ribas was no exception. Ribas made his ULEB Cup debut in the 2007-08 season, playing better and better as the season went on. He averaged 5.9 points and 1.5 assists in 16 games and played 21 minutes in the title game against Akasvayu Girona, in which Joventut rallied from an early double-digit deficit to take a commanding 54-79 win and the trophy. In addition to the club's first ULEB Cup title, Joventut also lifted Spain's prestigious Copa del Rey trophy that season.

"Coach Aito game me confidence from the very beginning and my game improved a lot until I enjoy a lot playing time at the end of the season and in the Spanish playoffs," Ribas said of that season. "It was also a good season for the club - the team was winning and that also helps a player."

For the 2008-09 season, at age 21, Ribas became the youngest team captain in Joventut's history and faced new responsibilities. He made his Euroleague debut with Joventut, averaging 7 points and 2.3 assists in 10 games. His great potential did not go unnoticed to Euroleague powerhouse Saski Baskonia - back then still called Caja Laboral - who after that season signed him to a multi-year deal. It was time for Pau to leave Badalona and move to another basketball-crazy city, Vitoria. Things went well for Ribas at his new club. He was a regular starter, his team's defensive stopper and helped Vitoria win the Spanish League title, matching his father's feat 42 years earlier. Ribas also had the chance to fight for a Final Four spot that season, but in the playoffs, CSKA Moscow stood in Vitoria's way.

He spent two more years in Vitoria for a total of four consecutive Euroleague seasons. No more titles came and Ribas started to see less playing time. When he was called by Valencia, Pau didn't hesitate.

Pau Ribas - Valencia Basket - EC13 (photo Miguel Ángel Polo - Valencia Basket)"Coming to Vitoria was a very important step forwards in my career because I joined a big team in European basketball," he said. "We won a league title and I had some good years, personally and as a team. My role changed and I had expectations to improve with the team - and those expectations got a little bit stuck. I saw I needed a change to improve my game and that is when I decided to come to Valencia. They called me and proposed me things I was interested about. They were persistent and I decided to come here. For me, playing the Eurocup with the goal of winning it, was not a very radical change. I had the luck to win a Spanish League title with Caja Laboral. I wanted to feel better as a player and this is what I found in Valencia. It was one of my goals to be an important player on a team that wins games."

His Eurocup return could not have been better, as Valencia downed Banvit Bandirma in its 2012-13 Eurocup season opener and Ribas shined with a career-best 23 points. Feeling comfortable in Valencia and playing for coach Velimir Perasovic, Ribas started to see more playing time, averaging 11.7 points and 3.3 assists in 13 Eurocup games. Ribas had 16 points in the Copa del Rey semifinals against Herbalife Gran Canaria, allowing Valencia to reach the title game. FC Barcelona stood in Valencia's way to its second Copa del Rey title, however. Valencia also had a great run in the Eurocup but lost on points differential against eventual champion Lokomtiv Kuban Krasnodar in the semifinals. Ribas stepped up just as he usually does in big showdowns, averaging 16 points in those two games. Injuries - Valencia had to use playmaker Stefan Markovic at power forward at times during Game 2 - prevented Valencia from reaching the Eurocup title game.

Ribas had a late start to the current 2013-14 Eurocup due to an injury, but his improved shooting percentages - 47.2% 3FG, 87% FT - and the leadership he has shown in the most important games of the season indicate that he just has entered the prime of his career. His all-around game, strong defense and winning mentality make him the right player for Valencia's motto, which it proudly wears on its jersey: The Effort Culture. Ribas has worked hard throughout his career, won a lot of different titles and will devote all that experience to the goal of helping Valencia become the first team to lift the Eurocup trophy three times.