Bring your best game

Apr 29, 2014 by Sam Van Rossom - Valencia, Spain Print
Bring your best game
Sam Van Rossom - Valencia Basket (photo Camera4)Hello, Eurocup fans, allow me to introduce myself. I am Sam Van Rossom, point guard for Valencia Basket Club, and I will be blogging for you until the end of the season! We managed to make it to the finals and that's what is most important. We lost a lot of games in the Eurocup, especially on the road. I don't really know why: we never found a real explanation for that! Every time that the team had its back against the wall, however, we stepped up. Handling big pressure has not been a problem for our team until now.

Earlier on this season, I had the chance to play against one of my former teams, Telenet Ostend. It was really special for me. Everybody was there to see me play! First of all, returning to your home country in a Eurocup game is already very special. Then, if it's against also against the only team that you played for professionally in Belgium, it is even more special! There were a lot of people in the gym and it was a great night - probably one of the best memories of the season!

Our most critical moment was against Khimki in Russia. It was a very strange game; both teams made runs during that one. We built a 16-point lead in Game 1, it's true, but it is always dangerous to play on the road and defend it. The concept of the game is difficult to handle, especially against a talented team like Khimki. We used quicker offenses in Game 2 and speeded up the game - and that is also why both teams made runs, because both teams had a chance to make - or miss - a lot of quick shots. To be honest, in a certain moment in the beginning of the fourth quarter, Khimki was up by just 1 or 2 points and I thought we were going to make it. Then they made another run and in the span of two or three minutes they had tied the series. It was obviously a crucial game for us: we lost the battle but qualified to advance. In the end, we made it. Maybe we got a little bit lucky, but that is part of the game, too.

The fact is, we have started every elimination series very well. We seem to play more aggressive at home, with more intensity. Our crowd, of course, gives us a big boost to play better. It is true that during the whole Eurocup season, we built a pretty good reputation at home. We won a lot of games at La Fonteta and with the home-and-away format that we have. It is very important to have good performances in your home games, no matter if it is Game 1 or 2. In our case, it was important to build up a good lead in Game 1 and try to defend it in Game 2. We didn't have the home-court advantage because we never played Game 2 at home.

We already played against Unics twice in the Last 32 group phase. I am sure that these two games will be very different. I remember that we only had eight players available when we travelled to Kazan and lost by 7 and then when we played at home, we tried to force overtime and try to win by more than those 7 points to finish first and get a better position in the next round, which didn't happen. It is a final, of course, and that changes everything, too. Unics is a very experienced, talented team and I think it will be a very close series. We know each other a little bit and that may make the final a little bit more tactical - and more interesting, too!

We hope we will have a full roster to face Unics, too. So far this season, we haven't been to play with a full roster. We always had somebody injured and that really didn't help us. We made it and I hope that everybody will be healthy before Game 1 of the final. It would be great for us, a big plus.

I had to play two games per week for the first time in many years and in the end, this is what everybody wants. Playing two games a week and competing at the highest level possible was one of the things I wanted to do. It had been a long time since I last played in European competitions. I was in CAI Zaragoza for the last three seasons and we only played the Spanish League. It has been different, because you play more games and get to travel much more. It is more demanding than just playing one competition and not travelling so much. I had to adapt a little bit to that.

We have travelled long distances but all the trips were pretty much OK. This will be the fourth time that we travel to Russia - Nizhny Novgorod, Khimki and Kazan, twice. I remember that in our first trip to Kazan, our flight was cancelled and we ended up being on the road for around 24 hours. That was pretty hard, but everything else was pretty normal. Valencia is a really well-organized club.

This is my fourth year in Spain and my first in Valencia, a team that always aspires for the best possible goals. They always try to win titles. Valencia won two Eurocup titles and was in the final two years ago, too. It also made it to the Copa del Rey final last season. This team competes at the highest level and this is what a player is always looking for. It has been a great experience so far and I hope we can finish this Eurocup season with the trophy in our hands.

We need to do everything well to get the lead in the series. Like I said, Unics is experienced and talented. A lot of their players have Euroleague experience - Kaimakoglou, Zisis, Vougioukas... they have a lot of weapons and we need to play at our best level for 40 minutes. We have to play with high intensity, as we always do at home, for sure. I hope we can make the most of our home-court advantage in Game 1. We will see, but this is a final. You have to bring your best game.

I will get back to you after Game 1. Stay tuned, wish us luck! Amunt Valencia!