It took some years for Alex Ruoff to make it to the Eurocup, but the small forward is making the most out of the experience in his first season with Dominion Bilbao Basket. At age 29, Ruoff has worked hard to make it to this level since starting his career in Belgian with Liege back in 2009. He soon joined Okapi Aalstar before getting severely injured in the 2011-12 season. Ruoff recovered and played in the D-League, Belgium and Germany - two seasons with Goettingen - before joining Bilbao. He makes his Eurocup blogging debut this season while helping his team to reach as far as possible in the 2015-16 Eurocup!
First of all, I have to say I am enjoying my first Eurocup season. One of the good things about this job, being a professional basketball player, is travelling around and getting to know different countries and different cultures. I played the FIBA EuroChallenge before, but never the Eurocup. The most impressive aspect is the competition, the level of play. Getting to play at a high level is my favorite part.
We have to been fortunate enough to get a few German teams as opponents, and sinceI played in Germany last year, it was nice to get back there a couple of times. The trip to Italy was also really nice, it was my first time there, and going to Ljubljana was great, too. I wish we had more time to experience culture a little bit better, but it was cool to go to all these places. You kind of have the night after the game plus the morning after, depending on how early you want to wake up, before heading to the airport. Upon arrival and before the game, you don't really want to mess with that. You want to relax and be well rested for the game. I am also excited about the next trips, too. We will go back to Germany twice and then to Turkey. I have never been to Turkey before!
I have been playing better in the Eurocup than in the domestic league. My numbers are better as the season goes along in the Eurocup, too. I get excited for the games and I love playing at this level. The spotlight is a lot of fun and I guess it shows in the numbers. Like I said, I was really looking forward to playing in this competition. I tore my ACL when I was playing in Belgium and as a result, I had to go to the D-League, and then I played in the German second division. This has been kind of a long road for me, coming back from that injury, and this was definitely the goal - to get to this level. I am very excited to be there and play this competition.
I love playing in Bilbao. It is a good place to play the Eurocup for the first time because a lot of players have a lot of experience. They know a lot about playing at this level and show it during the games. As far as the team and the club goes, it has been great. It is very professional, plus the fans are the city are amazing. I really don't have any complains. I am playing a different role than in Germany but I think that kind of goes with being at a higher level: that was expected. We recently signed Mirza Begic and he is helping us a lot. He is different than Shawn James but gives us a nice low-post presence. When we need a bucket during the game, we can throw it to him on the block. That is a huge advantage!
I love living in Bilbao, too. It is amazing! It is a beautiful city. My Spanish is not so good and the language barrier is a little bit tough, but the food and the city and the people are great. You are 20 minutes away from the water - you couldn't ask for a better place to live. If I had to choose one good thing about Bilbao, it would definitely be the food. It is not even comparable - it is amazing! There are so many restaurants... you can try a new restaurant every night. It is delicious!
I am privileged enough to have Raul Lopez as my roommate. That's very cool because he has played at nothing but high levels his whole career. It is fun to talk to him and pick his brain. He is a very cool guy, too, perfect for a roommate. He likes to read, relax and get to bed early, which is really good on the road.
We will play against ratiopharm Ulm, Banvit and Bayern Munich in the Last 32. I like the playing style in Germany and I think I can add a little bit and help when it comes to scouting. Ulm and Bayern are two great clubs: both have great fan bases and are exciting places to play. It is impossible not to get hyped up for those games! We open the Last 32 in Ulm and then play two games at home. I remember playing in Ulm with Goettingen last season - I know their fan base and how crazy it gets in there. It will be a true road test for us. We will finish the Last 32 with a road trip to Bandirma. I heard you have to take a boat to get there! It will be tough from a travel standpoint and what it does to your body... but as far as an experience, it is good. How many people get to say that? You travel to Turkey and get a boat to get somewhere else... that's pretty extraordinary, don't you think? I am ready for it! It should be fun.
I am very familiar with the 32 teams that are fighting for the title, paid attention on who came down from the Euroleague and stuff like that. To be honest, we are just focused on our three opponents. You have to take care of business and not look too far ahead. Ulm is our first opponent and that is all we worry about right now. It is a good club with a big fan base and a lot of tradition. I have a lot of respect for them. I have an ex-college teammate on their roster, Da'Sean Butler. I am looking forward to going up against him!
It is tough to predict how we can finish in the Eurocup this season. Like I said, we have to go game by game. I am new to the competition and we had a few injuries, but I think we are good enough to do really well. Talent-wise and definitely experience-wise, we have a chance to be very good. First things first, we have to get past a really tough Last 32 group. Our fans are pretty passionate and I am sure they will help us in this journey!