What's up everyone! It's Matt Thomas of Valencia Basket, here for my second blog post of the season! Now that I've introduced myself back in the first entry and got all the boring formalities out of the way, I'm looking forward to giving you some compelling behind-the-scenes info and stories about my teammates and myself in this second blog. Enjoy!
I'll start with life in Valencia. It's safe to say that I'm enjoying things in my new city. I mean, let's be real. It's now the middle of December and the weather is consistently sunny and nearly 20 degrees most days. My apartment is just a 10-minute drive away from the beach, so I like to take advantage of the nice weather and spend time there on off days and free afternoons. Being from Wisconsin, I grew up with brutally cold and snowy winters, so this is a nice change for me. When I talk to my friends and family from home, I always make sure to overhype how great a city Valencia is and the beautiful weather, hoping to entice them to want to make the trip over. So far I haven't had anyone make the trip to see me – yet! I try to convince myself that it's because they are all busy with work and whatnot, but I'm starting to feel like they don't miss me and would rather not see me. (Totally joking! Everyone loves me.)
"A bunch of us ended up bonding and playing the card game Uno in the airport cafe."
One of the areas I have grown fond of in Valencia is Ruzafa. One of my teammates, Aaron Doornekamp, is in his second season with Valencia Basket and lives near Ruzafa, so I go to him for restaurant recommendations from time to time. And boy, has he delivered! I'd consider him a foodie. He knows the streets of Ruzafa like the back of his hand; it's impressive to say the least. I'll also add that's he's vegan and eats very clean, so these spots he's recommending are healthy. Some of the restaurants I frequent: Blackbird, Dulce de Leche, and La Mas Bonita. All are great for breakfast on an off day or a morning before practice. But that's enough about the city, this isn't a blog for TripAdvisor. Let's talk some hoops and travel.
Our 7DAYS EuroCup season has been off to a pretty solid start. We are 7-2 in our group, have locked in the number one seed, and will advance to the Top 16. I was able to see one of my former college teammates, Dustin Hogue of Trento, when we squared off about a month ago. It was great to spend time with him and relive the college (glory) days. I was also able to play in the historic Pionir Hall when we were in Belgrade to face Partizan. The atmosphere was awesome, and we came out with a big road win! The next day, however, none of us knew what we were in for...
Our team left the hotel in the morning heading to Timisoara, Romania, where we would catch our flight back to Valencia. After some travel complications we ended up missing our flight home. Let me add that this was Thanksgiving Day. So while all my friends and family were back home spending the day together stuffing their faces with food, I was stuck in the Timisoara airport. A bunch of us ended up bonding and playing the card game Uno in the airport cafe. Louis Labeyrie was having a hard time following the rules of the game and was getting quite frustrated because of it. (They must have their own rules in France). We ended up making the most of the circumstances and got a flight back home to Valencia the next day. A Thanksgiving I'll never forget.
Recently we had a weekend off during the FIBA windows. The other American on our team, Mike Tobey, and I decided to take advantage of it and take a mini-vacation. Destination: Berlin, Germany! Two years ago, Mike was in Valencia and played with my fellow EuroCup blogger Luke Sikma, now with ALBA Berlin. They were in contact and we were able to link up with him in Berlin. I immediately felt tension between Luke and I when we met. I got the sense that people have been saying I am a young, on-the-rise EuroCup blogger. Apparently Luke didn't want me to steal any of his shine.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't surprised when I saw the video of [Sam Van Rossom] dunking."
The tension was brief, however, and we were able to enjoy each other's company once we all ate and indulged in a couple of adult beverages at Luke's favorite Mexican restaurant. Luke was a great host to say the least! Mike and I also took on some adventures of our own while in Berlin. We checked out the Berlin Wall Monument, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie, and of course the Christmas Markets (among other cool things typical tourists do). It was a fun trip and we were able to recharge, but both of us were eager to get back to Valencia and get back to work!
While I was in Berlin, I received a video of my teammate Sam Van Rossom dunking in a game he was playing in for his country, Belgium, against Portugal. Now, his calves are the size of tree trunks, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't surprised when I saw the video of him dunking with such ease and authority! He's not sponsored by Bouncewear ("No bounce no game") for no reason! #SAMaSLAM
After a bit of a slow start in the Spanish ACB League we are currently sitting at a 7-5 record. However, I feel like we are beginning to get things going in the right direction. We are getting healthy and I feel like we are starting to find our identity. The return of guards Rafa Martinez and Antoine Diot has given us more depth, experience and leadership. Moving forward, I still feel like we have a lot of room to grow and improve to be at the level that we are capable of. As for now, we need to continue to take things one day and one game at a time.
That's all I have for you right now! Stay tuned for my next blog in the coming weeks!