Turkish Airlines Euroleague
June 19, 2013
Fred House, Pamesa
If there is a player for whom the ULEB Cup experience remains incomplete, it has to be Fred House of Pamesa Valencia. House was a star guard for Lietuvos Rytas when the Lithuanian powerhouse won the ULEB Cup title in 2005 - but he missed out on that celebration. He had been leading the competition in both performance index rating and steals, and in fact still holds the ULEB Cup record for index rating in a non-overtime game that season. Alas, in January of 2005, House was severely injured in the last regular season game and missed all of the elimination rounds. Three years later, House has reached the Final Eight of the competition with the full intention of lifting the trophy he missed before and helping another former champion, Pamesa, become the first two-time winner of the ULEB Cup. House has plenty experience to bring to the task, having won domestic titles in three different countries since he came to Europe in 2002. Now an all-around player and steals specialist at Pamesa, House knows that after missing the 2005 title game with L. Rytas, his next best chance to win a European trophy may well be right now. "I was excited then, but felt I missed out on something, so playing the Final Eight is a dream come true," House told ULEBCup.com. "If you work hard, good things come to you."
House found his way from a solid college career at Southern Utah University to become NBDL rookie of the year in 2002 before deciding to accept an offer from Serbian powerhouse Partizan to play in Europe. "I wanted to try something different and I didn't want to play in minor leagues anymore," House explained. "I wanted to try a different scenery. The money was better than the NBDL, but I didn't even think about it, only about the competition." Within a matter of weeks, House started earning a reputation as one of the Euroleague's great one-on-one defenders. On a team with players like Nenad Krstic and Milos Vujanic, the regular season top scorer that season, House averaged 12.8 points 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 steals in his last four Euroleague games that season, and after helping Partizan defend its Yugoslav League title, re-signed for the next season. Now familiar with his surroundings and the competition, House exploded in 2003-04. Early in the regular season, House shocked everyone with 39 points - still the third-highest single-game scoring mark in Euroleague history -, 6 rebounds and 5 steals in a 93-81 win against Cibona. House stayed rock-solid throughout the regular season, putting up 15.4 points, 6 rebounds and a league-high 3.3 steals per game. Those averages have never been matched by another Euroleague player. Unfortunately, a late five-game losing streak sent Partizan out of the Top 16 on a tiebreak. "When I got to Partizan, the fans were wild and crazy, gave me a lot of energy and made me play better," House remembers. "I like the way that I found out about European basketball. There is something great in every city I have played in. Fans were great in Belgrade and the city doesn't sleep."
Partizan won another Yugoslav League title that season and even though House had to undergo surgery late in the season, he recovered in time to join Lietuvos Rytas and make his ULEB Cup debut. With two years of Euroleague experience under his belt already, House arrived in Vilnius with only one ambition: to win the ULEB Cup title. House not only led L. Rytas early in the ULEB Cup season, but played arguably the best basketball of his career, averaging 22.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 steals in the first seven regular season games, leading the competition with a 28.6 index average. His best performance came against Deichmann Slask on November 15, 2004, as House set an all-time ULEB Cup index rating record in a non-overtime game. House had 38 points on 7-for-9 two-pointers, 5-for-6 three-pointers and 9-for-9 free throws, good for a 50 index.
Things would change in the final game of the regular season against Red Star, however, as House went down with a ACL injury in that game in Belgrade, his home for two years. He stayed sidelined for the remainder of the season. "I was having the time of my life, playing great," House recalls. "I could do whatever and I thought I would stay for a long time. It was tough because when you have a ACL injury, it is a very hard one to come back from. I went back to Utah to have my surgery and a gentleman who knew me gave me a book about athletes that bounced back. I read the book over and over, and there was this 32-year-old football player that not only recovered, but the injury made him a better player and a better person. He worked hard every day, and confidence allowed me to play better than before. It helped me a lot."
L. Rytas ended up winning the ULEB Cup and getting a spot for its Euroleague debut in the 2005-06 season, but it did not forget about House, extending his contract for one more season. House was fully recovered from his six-month injury and ready to prove himself again. As L. Rytas proved it was not a typical Euroleague newcomer by almost winning its regular season group, House was a main factor as the team bounced back from defeats in its first two games. He stepped up with 23 points to make L. Rytas grab a 91-97 road win against Barcelona. That sparked a seven-game win streak that sent L. Rytas directly to the Top 16. House averaged 11.4 points and 2.3 steals in 13 regular season games, but L. Rytas had a bad-luck Top 16 Draw, getting grouped with Euroleague powerhouses CSKA Moscow and Tau Ceramica. Even when House improved his scoring average to 13.2 points, L. Rytas could not advance to the playoffs. Nonetheless, L. Rytas won the Lithuanian and Baltic League trophies, the latter as MVP of the final tournament.
Having come back so strongly from his injury, House attracted major attention and joined Tau Ceramica, fresh off its second consecutive Final Four appearance. To an already talented team with players like Luis Scola, Pablo Prigioni, Tiago Splitter and Igor Rakocevic, House fit right in as an instant-energy defensive stopper. He helped Tau to win the Spanish SuperCup to begin the 2006-07 season, and though no more titles came that year, the team made a third consecutive trip to the Euroleague Final Four. House had the chance to take part in the ultimate European club basketball event and has good memories about it. "The Final Four experience was great;" he said. "I never experienced anything like that before. You feel like a celebrity at the Final Four, like a rock star. People treat you very well there. We didn't win and that's what matters in the end, but I had a great time."
House joined Pamesa Valencia last summer with an eye on ULEB Cup glory. He has teamed up in a deadly frontcourt that also features playmaker Shammond Williams and 2005 ULEB Cup final MVP Ruben Douglas. House missed some games with a finger injury, but overcame a slow start to shine in the last series against Zadar. His 16 points on 4-for-4 three-pointers and 4 steals in less than 17 minutes helped propel Pamesa into the Final Eight. House never had the chance to fight for the ULEB Cup title due to his major injury in 2005, so he is more motivated than ever and ready to take Pamesa as deep as possible in the Final Eight.
"Winning the ULEB Cup would mean a lot because I wasn't a part of the team when Rytas won and it was tough not to receive the award," he said. "I was part of the team, but I couldn't dedicate myself to that because I missed out on the most important games. When I was in the hospital, players called me and told me they won. I was excited, but I felt I missed out on something, so playing the Final Eight is a dream come true. Last year at this time, I was getting ready for the Final Four with Tau. Now it's the Final Eight, so if you work hard, good things come to you."
Monday, March 31, 2008
Javier Gancedo, ULEBCup.com