Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana starts another season with great ambition. The team has a lot of experienced players who know the 7DAYS EuroCup inside out including playmaker Luka Rupnik, who is in his sixth EuroCup campaign. Born in Ljubljana, Rupnik started his career with Slovan and made his EuroCup debut with Olimpija Ljubljana. He also played the EuroCup with Spanish side Fuenlabrada, near Madrid, where he bonded with another Slovenian player, Luka Doncic, who follows all of his games. Rupnik also played in Belgium, the Czech Republic and again in Spain before joining Cedevita Olimpija's ambitious project and over the summer he played for Slovenia at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. This season, Rupnik will share his and his team's experiences through his Eurocupbasketabll.com blog.
First of all, I want to tell you a bit about who I am. My career has been a nice ride so far and I'm enjoying it. I think I've made good decisions. I loved playing in Spain and hope that one day I can come back but obviously, it is nice to be home. We have a great team and I'm really happy to be part of a good, healthy project at Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana. I hope that people in Slovenia will start to recognize Olimpija the way they did before and the way they do with the national team.
"I think that this is the strongest EuroCup season ever."
Slovenian basketball is at its highest moment right now. Luka Doncic is a basketball superstar and I could say he is one of the most popular sportsmen in the world. We saw that at the Olympics, where he was taking photos with athletes every five minutes. I mean, every five steps when we went for lunch. Obviously, kids love him. He's a great role model for the young generations and I believe that he will achieve amazing things. He is also a basketball junkie and follows all of his friends' games, including mine! He watches all of my games! I always get a text message from him after the game. I got it after the game in Gran Canaria and the game before against Crvena Zvezda. He watched all of the Zvezda game and, of course, he follows Real Madrid, too. That's what makes him good. He loves basketball. He enjoys playing it, and he takes it as a game, as all players should. We do this for the fans to be happy.
The EuroCup has a new format this season. I think it's great. It's closer to the EuroLeague system: many games, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic season. It's good for the fans who are going to be able to enjoy the best EuroCup teams. I think that this is the strongest EuroCup season ever and I am also happy because I know that there are going to be a lot of games, nice traveling and I am just looking forward to it.
We had a good start, too, beating Gran Canaria on the road. We had a really tough trip. We were in Belgrade to play against Zvezda on Sunday and we were also up for like 33-34 minutes but then we collapsed. And immediately after the game we traveled to Gran Canaria, which is one of the longest trips. We knew that we have to be solid and stay as a team, and we did that. We believed and won in the end. Not many teams are going to win there because they have a great atmosphere. We are really happy that we got such a big win right at the start of the EuroCup season.
Our next game is at home against Bourg in Round 2. It will be special to play a EuroCup game in front of our fans. I think people are eager for basketball, eager for sports after the crisis. So hopefully we are going to give them a good show and win. People in Ljubljana are, let's say, a little bit picky and you need to bring them to the gym with wins, so hopefully we will do that. We have a lot of experienced players in the competition and that is an advantage. Even our foreign players have a name in Europe and they are great guys. We also have a bunch of Slovenian national team players, who are the core of the locker room. So I think the club managed to put together a group of great guys and it's on us to find chemistry on the court as soon as possible. I believe that we're going to have a great season.
"The club managed to put together a group of great guys and it's on us to find chemistry on the court."
Jaka Blazic is, by far, the most important player on the team. He's a great scorer and a great guy. And especially, I think he's the player every coach wants in his team. For instance, at the Olympics, he knew what his role was. We had Luka Doncic, Mike Tobey, Zoki Dragic, Klemen Prepelic, so he took the defensive role and was guarding full-court press every game like crazy. And then he comes to Cedevita Olimpija and he scores 20 every night on a regular basis. I think that's one of the biggest qualities that a player can have, that he accepts every role he's given. And that's why he had, and still has, a great career in European basketball. He had many offers last summer but had a contract with Cedevita and is super happy here. And me, as a friend and teammate, I'm even happier. What can I say? He is an amazing guy. I was his best man at his wedding! We go back to when he played for Slovan. We have been together since we started our careers. I could say he is like my brother and one of the best people I ever met in my life.
Eight teams out of 10 make it to the next round. The thing is that on the paper it looks easy, but our group is, let's say, much tougher than the other one. So it's going to be 18 really good games. Our goal is to go game by game and especially try to win all our home games. And the thing is that we are playing a really good Adriatic League game on the weekend. It is the same for the Spanish and French clubs to battle on two strong fronts every week. So it is going to be a long season. I hope that we stay healthy and that we are going to do good things.