He joined Joventut Badalona at age 14 and slowly but steadily became one of the most interesting young players in Spanish basketball. Xabi Lopez-Arostegui has already been a member of the Spanish national team and this is his first 7DAYS EuroCup season. A tall shooting guard with good athleticism and a smooth shot release, Lopez-Arostegui is the kind of player who sees every game as an opportunity to learn. In his EuroCupbasketball.com blog, Lopez-Arostegui tells us about what it means to play for Joventut, a traditional club full of talented young players in a city that breathes basketball.
We started the Top 16 with an important win. We had a rough start and were down 16 points at the end of the first quarter. Andorra was hitting every shot, especially from three-point range, and we had a lot of doubts on offense and defense. In the end, we managed to take the lead for the first time in the final minute and managed to seal a home win, which is very important. It could be a critical win at the end of the Top 16. It wasn't easy because, like I said, they were playing great early in the game, not only hitting shots but playing with high physicality. We talked about it with our coach at halftime and realized that if we wanted to win, we needed to match their physicality, and that is what they did. We were solid on defense and had more patience on offense. We started to score and feel more comfortable, and that allowed us to return to the game and win it.
"Even if you have a rough night on offense, you can contribute on defense."
Talking to our coach at halftime was critical. We needed to change our momentum and play with a different mentality. After the first half, we needed something like that to bounce back, and it had a positive effect. We knew what he wanted and he got it from us in the second half, changing the rhythm of the game. We showed a lot of good things that night. For instance, we managed to win even when Klemen Prepelic didn't have his best shooting night, and I think this is a good sign. Klemen is our scoring reference and has proven to be really solid throughout the season, scoring with great consistency, but we have other options, too. Nikos Zisis took a step forward, showing his experience, and even if you have a rough night on offense, you can contribute on defense. That says a lot about the team.
Nikos is a key player for us and played a very good game against Andorra. He is a reference for us on a daily basis. He is helping us a lot, especially the youngest players on the team. He tells us how to work and how to handle playing two competitions. He cannot stop talking about basketball! He is a basketball freak, on and off the bench, and shows his knowledge at every opportunity. He loves basketball but there are a lot of players on this team -- like Klemen, Neno Dimitrijevic and me -- who follow all competitions. He tells us a lot of funny stories, incredible things that happened to him during his career. It is great to listen to him.
We are on our way to Malaga to face Unicaja. Playing two competitions for the first time in my career, I am learning a lot. It is a challenge for all the young players on the team, as well as for the club, and you always have to be ambitious and willing to do well. The Andorra game was our third home win at the buzzer. You need to have a little bit of luck in games like this and the coin fell on our side of the table. We were lucky in those close games, and that allowed us to stay undefeated at home, which is critical in the EuroCup. On the other hand, in order to have an opportunity to win in the end, the game must be tied. We had a bad start against Andorra but rallied and put ourselves in a position to win. That is a positive sign. We are trying to be a solid basketball team and create a winning atmosphere in Badalona.
"We went from a strong group to a very powerful one"
Being the most inexperienced team in our group, maybe it is good for us that two of our three opponents, Unicaja and Andorra, come from the Spanish League. It is not easy, because scouting is very advanced these days, but that means also shorter trips and better game preparation. We already won in Round 1 and will try to get a win in Malaga, too. They play with a high rhythm, with players like Jaime Fernandez, Josh Adams and now Dario Brizuela. They try to dominate the game tempo and stopping it will be one of the keys.
It is not being an easy EuroCup season. Our three regular-season opponents in the Top 16, Brescia, Darussafaka and UNICS, won in Round 1. We went from a strong group to a very powerful one, too, and anything can happen. It is going to be tough for everybody but we took the first step and that gives us confidence. We will try to carry on!