This time, I would like to tell you a bit more about my career, which was not as easy as you may think. Usually, you get to the EuroLeague when you play for a high-profile youth team. Not me, I started from lower categories. My path was very different; I was not on youth teams like most professional players until you reach that club's first team. That made me work for things harder than many players and my road to the EuroLeague had more previous stops than most. It also made me stronger to face certain situations, so I don't complain at all. Some players have an easier way to reach the EuroLeague. I didn't, but got to that level anyway. A lot happened during these years.
One thing I always knew is that you have to work hard to get better, no matter where you are. My dad often recites this typical Catalonian sentence to define it, "pit i collons" which we can politely be translated as "heart and character". You have to have pride and play with character; it is a sentence that the late football coach Tito Vilanova used to say, and it is something that dad always tells me, too: pit i collons! No matter what happens or how things go, you can never play without heart and character. Never ever.
I was cut from Manresa around six or seven years ago and decided to quit basketball. It was just for a few days, but I was determined not to play any longer. The truth is that I was in a bad situation in Manresa because nobody likes to be called and told that you will not play for the team anymore. I really wanted to stay with the team and I actually thought I would be in Manresa for several years, with the opportunity to show I could play in the Spanish League. I had a couple of very bad days in which I decided to stop playing basketball. It was hard for me and I didn't expect Manresa's decision, to be honest. Then I got a call from Quim Costa that changed everything; he wanted me to play for Forca Lleida. He changed my decision and made me believe in basketball again.
What would have happened if I carried on with that decision and never played basketball again? Well, I would have gone back to studying and taken it more seriously. I am sure I would have found my own way, even though I would have never experienced all the good things that happened to me the last few years. I would have kept studying until I got a college degree. That was the idea until Quim's call changed everything. My parents supported me in each decision I made, but this was a hard one for them. They suggested I wait and see what happened, to play one more year at least, to avoid taking decisions in the heat of the moment, to calm down, think it through and then decide. It was good advice, and I am still around.
I had to play at a lower level, in the LEB Oro League, the Spanish second division. It was a great league for me to get better and stronger. There were a lot of good, young players trying to make it to the ACB. Some of us had already played in the Spanish elite and some others were on the way up, trying to impress everyone to end up getting a contract in the ACB. It helped me lot, the mix between young, up-and-coming talent and veteran players. It is a tough league with a lot of experienced players, which always helps young players improve. You gain a lot of experience and it makes you mature sooner, getting the right working habits right away. It was great to work with Quim even though I have not really kept in contact with him. I know he is coaching Girona and things are going well for him, which is not a surprise for me, of course, because he is a very good coach. I only wish him the best.
There is nothing wrong with playing in the Spanish second division, of course. Players like Brad Oleson, James Feldeine, Andres Nocioni and before them, Velimir Perasovic, Pablo Prigioni and Jose Calderon played at that level and had successful careers. I could name many more players who ended up in the EuroLeague or the NBA. Like I said before, everyone has his own way and I knew that mine went that way, by playing well at any level I belonged to. Thanks to that mentality, this is where I am right now, thanks to those teams that gave me the opportunity – in this case, Forca Lleida and Huesca in the LEB Oro League. It is nothing to hide or be ashamed of; actually, I am proud of it, because it helped me become a better player, gain confidence through playing time, and make the most of each opportunity I had.
It was also key for me to join Baloncesto Sevilla for two seasons before I joined Valencia Basket. My first year in Sevilla was very tough, with Scott Roth as the coach. The team had made it to the Spanish League playoffs the previous season and all of a sudden, it was in danger of going down to the second division. Some of the main players left the team, as did the former coach, Aito Garcia Reneses. In the end, Luis Casimiro was able to turn a tough situation around. We avoided relegation and the next season was much better. After a first season in which I tried to gain confidence, I proved that I was good enough to play in the Spanish League, that I belonged at that level. And after that, I went to Valencia and you probably know the rest: EuroCup finalist, Spanish League champion and a bronze medal with the Spanish national team before joining FC Barcelona Lassa this season.
Right now, the goal is to be as competitive as I can be, personally and as a team. We have been able to get big wins in the EuroLeague against CSKA, Panathinaikos, Olympiacos and Maccabi, just to name four of the teams we beat at Palau Blaugrana. We all know that our team is able to defeat anybody, because those teams are not easy to beat, even at home. Yes, we had some bad luck and didn't have the continuity we wanted and that sent us to the lower spots in the standings, which is a place where nobody wants to be. We will keep fighting as long as we have playoff chances. It is a process in which you learn from your mistakes, and we still have some games left in which we can show our best version. We want to keep competing and working hard to finish the season the best way possible.
I think we proved that much by winning the Copa del Rey last week. What an unbelievable weekend it was for us! We started the tournament with an underdog role, even when Barcelona is always one of the top candidates to win all competitions. Our season had not been very good until then and some people thought we would not go past the quarterfinals. By winning this title, we have taken a big weight off our shoulders. We played three really good games to take the trophy home, and I hope it is a turning point for us.
Things are hard for us in the EuroLeague, it is still mathematically possible to make it to the playoffs, but we are aware it will be very difficult to get there. This title has to help us give our best in every game. We have to win as many games as possible and look forward in the remainder of the season. We still have a lot of games to play and all options open in the Spanish League. We have to go game by game, starting with the one against Real Madrid on Friday. We knew what the calendar was and were aware we could play back-to-back games against them if we had a good Copa del Rey tournament. It is a bit strange, playing twice in a week after a high-octane showdown like the Copa del Rey final. We will play at home, in front of our fans, with the chance to celebrate our recent title with another big win!