Will Cherry of ALBA Berlin arrived in Europe midway through last season and has already had the privilege to play his home games at two of the best arenas on the continent. The 24-year old Cherry played college basketball at Montana and after a season in the D-League, he joined Euroleague powerhouse Zalgiris Kaunas and helped it to the Lithuanian double - league and cup titles. Over the summer Cherry moved from Zalgiris Arena to Mercedes-Benz Arena, home of the 2016 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four, to play for ALBA. The soft-spoken point guard is enjoying every minute he spends in Berlin and Cherry will tell us all about it and ALBA in his Eurocupbasketball.com blog!
What a great win we had last week! A comeback win against a very good team like Herbalife Gran Canaria. Can it get better than this? Of course, it can get a lot better! If we didn't put ourselves in that hole during the first half. I think a win like that is definitely good, especially for our fans. As a competitor, I know it was a little hectic, being in that position after the first half. You want to win, but you don't want to be in that situation. Still, when you come out on top the way we did, it is a big character win. When you win a game like that, you show a lot of heart, determination and will to beat a great team like we did.
We have won our two Eurocup games at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Of course, I love playing in such a great arena! It is crazy! When I played with Zalgiris last year in the Euroleague and we faced ALBA here, the first thing I immediately saw is that this is a great place to play basketball, with a great crowd. It was like the big time! In college, I wasn't able, unfortunately, to make it to the NCAA Tournament three of our four years, but you get that type of feel in this arena. I played in the NBA for a couple of games and it was kind of that feeling as well. Being a member of the team and my home now, I wouldn't really want to play anywhere else! The arena is great and the fans come out and support you each and every night. No matter what game it is, there is always a big crowd. I think it will only get better as time goes on and we get later in the season for more important games.
I can say I have been lucky and privileged enough to play for ALBA Berlin and Zalgiris Kaunas. Zalgiris is definitely one of the best clubs to play for. I had heard so many stories about that, but being able to witness that, their rich tradition, it was great. And then coming to ALBA and playing at the Mercedes-Benz Arena is even crazier - bigger arena, with a great fan base... I have been pretty lucky in the last two years, and blessed to have such great fan bases behind my teams and behind me, as a player. This motivates me each and every night, especially when I play at home in those arenas with the crowd behind us 100% all the time.
We also managed to beat Le Mans on the road. That is definitely a tough place to play - and we won in overtime. That was another character win, another heartfelt win. Le Mans is also one of the best teams in our group. For us, to get that win there, was definitely, I want to say... kind of a momentum builder for us. If we are can play the way we did in an arena like that, against a tough team like that, we might be able to play anywhere – especially in that situation, in that kind of atmosphere. We are not done yet; we still have to go to Gran Canaria and a lot of other places we haven't been to yet, and try to get as many wins as possible. You cannot have many bad games in the Eurocup, but that win against Le Mans was a statement win for us.
Things are better for us after three consecutive wins. We opened the season with a bad loss against Ludwigsburg. That game was kind of a wake-up call for us. I know they definitely played a great game and were better than us that night - by far! No doubt about it. I feel that we didn't play our game as a team, as a whole, and that that helped them out, even though they played really well, too. They capitalized on every opportunity and in every mistake that we made. That was definitely a wake-up call for us; it let us know that we can beaten by anybody on any given day, it doesn't matter if it is the Eurocup or the German League. If we don't come out ready to play hard for 40 minutes in every game, things like that can happen.
I love living in Berlin; it is just another blessing! Playing in Europe is great and I love going to these nice cities. Being with Zalgiris and coming here last season, I didn't really have the chance to even explore the rich history and culture of Berlin. I have been here for only two months and only had the chance to see a couple of things, but I have been able to see a lot more than I saw last season. I haven’t seen a lot of what Berlin has to offer, but the city as a whole is great. For what I have seen so far and explored, it is literally a home away from home. It is so similar and modern to the States, and it is really hard to get homesick unless you are really thinking about your family, your loved ones or people you see on a regular basis. Other than that, the city feel is so much like home, so I am not missing out on anything. It also has its own European style and feeling as well. At the same time, you get to experience something different. I really love it here. I really do.
Our next game is against Enel Brindisi in Italy. I have been in Europe for a year and facing new teams is always a nice challenge. I am always going in with a blind eye, actually, until it is time to scout a team. I really don't know much about our opponents until that moment, how their league is and stuff like that. It is one thing to hear about different leagues or other players who have been around the block in Europe, but it is another to play, go to different cities and see how they actually play. It is definitely an eye-opener for me. It is a challenge, but I take it more as an advantage - to see different styles of play here in Europe. I look forward just to seeing what different guys bring to the table in other different teams and different leagues.
Of course, our first goal is to make it to the next round. It is an old saying: control what you can control. If we control what we can control and keep winning games the way we are doing, finding ways to win, we will be fine. You can't lose at home, that is the number one rule for any team, in any sport. You don't lose in front of your own fans, at the house. Being the competitor that I am, I know that our coaching staff and the rest of my teammates want to win every single game, at home and on the road, to let people know that it doesn't matter where you are, we are going to come to your place and making it our home. If we advance, the plan is getting to the next round and not worry about upcoming challenges until they present themselves.
Thank you, ALBA fans, keep supporting us! See you around!