As far as basketball powers go, Portugal is not high on the list and Cape Verde is not on the radar. But as that the only player from those countries in the 7DAYS EuroCup, Dolomiti Energia Trento forward Beto Gomes is trying his best to change their basketball fortunes.
The 33-year-old Gomes is spending his second season in the EuroCup. He was injured after two games, in which he averaged 6.0 points and 5.5 rebounds, but is expected back soon. Last season, his first in the EuroCup, Gomes collected 8.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game. This is marks his third season overall with Trento after joined the club in 2016.
"This is my third year with this great team and organization, with the same goal: give our best to well represent this city and the fans that always are here to support us," Gomes said.
Such loyalty between him and his teams is a career trend for Gomes. He spent four years with Portuguese club Barreirense, three-plus years with Breogan Lugo of Spain, three with Benfica back in Portugal, and two seasons with MoraBanc Andorra before his move to Trento.
"I always choose to be in a place where I feel loved, especially now with my wife and two kids. I just want what it is best for them, so Trento is the best place for that," said Gomes, whose wife Sofia Ramalho is a former Portugal international basketball player.
The advantages to staying put are obvious to Gomes: "Once you are in a place for more than a year you already know what it takes to succeed; what makes your job easier. That's my opinion. Here I know what we need to achieve our goal and as an experienced player I just have to translate this knowledge to the new players."
At the same time, Gomes is busy being an inspiration to another country as the only Portuguese player in the EuroCup.
"It means a lot, of course. I work hard every day so I can be where I am right now, somehow trying to motivate other Portuguese players, too, because we have a lot of talented players who just need somebody to inspire them," said Gomes, who has played for Portugal's national team since 2005. He insists that the game in Portugal is getting better.
"The reason I can say that is the fact that Oliveirense won the championship last season, ending the monopoly that Benfica and Porto had for the last nine years. That shows other teams that they can fight for the championship as well, making the league more competitive," he says.
Gomes, however, is not actually from Portugal, but rather Cape Verde, a group of islands off the coast of western Africa. After playing for the island nation at the U16 level, Gomes left for Portugal when he was 17 years old.
"I always keep in touch with friends and my family and of course it's my number one destination for vacation," said Gomes, who was born in Fogo. "I was there two years ago. Because the time is so short I enjoy as much as possible being there with my family."
Gomes is not the only Cape Verde native playing high-level basketball in Europe. One compatriot who has already accomplished big things is Edy Tavares, who won the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague last season with Real Madrid.
"I was very happy," said Gomes, who is seven years older than Tavares. "What a way to encourage the young basketball players back in Cape Verde!"
The two met four years ago in a Spanish League pre-season game between Andorra and Gran Canaria.
"Before that, I had heard about a Cape Verde guy at 2.20 meters and I found it hard to believe, because that's not normal in our country. Then I met him and I was stunned," Gomes admitted.
"We don't see each other that much, just when I play against him, and I never had the chance to meet him in Cape Verde."
Gomes thinks that he and Tavares are examples of what Cape Verde have to offer in terms of basketball players: "Cape Verde has very talented players, but the conditions there are not the best. There is not much investment in sports like basketball, so it's hard to improve and create a good league."
Gomes right now is worrying only about getting back on court and getting better, which he describes as Trento's mindset, as well.
"Here in Trento we don't set goals for the long term, we think game by game," Gomes says. "We just focus on having a good week of practice and become better week after week."
It's the perfect mindset for basketball aspirants in Portugal and Cape Verde, too.