Louis Labeyrie was especially needed for Valencia Basket in its 7DAYS EuroCup 2021-22 season opener as several key players were absent. But it wasn’t until the power forward got a reset after a nightmare start that he was able to play his game - and set new career highs.
Labeyrie finished with 23 points and 8 rebounds for an index rating of 24 as Valencia downed Promitheas Patras 92-82 in its first game back in the EuroCup. Labeyrie, who set personal EuroCup bests in points and PIR, drained 3 of his 4 three-pointers in the decisive 19-5 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to help the four-time EuroCup champs take over the game.
But the 29-year-old Frenchman couldn’t have had a worse start. He committed two turnovers in the first 54 seconds of the game and Valencia head coach Joan Penarroya pulled him from the game after just 95 seconds.
“I started the game very badly,” Labeyrie admitted afterward. “I was out of my mind … parent stuff. When everything was cleared, I could free my mind and play my game.”
Labeyrie did not elaborate but he and his wife Morgane did have their first child, Abel in September 2020. And he certainly played like a relieved parent after.
“I really enjoy playing with this team. I know we are short but every one of us gave their effort and their best to win the game,” he added.
A good Labeyrie was especially important since Valencia was without the big man trio of Bojan Dubjleivc, Victor Claver and Mike Tobey as well as guard Klemen Preplic.
Penarroya, himself making his EuroCup debut as he joined Valencia this off-season, ended up getting some good production from two youngsters as well to help out the cause. The 22-year-old Josep Puerto collected 12 points and 3 rebounds while 20-year-old Jaime Pradilla chipped in 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting as well as 3 rebounds.
“Pradilla and Puerto are younger players and they have a great opportunity to play a lot of minutes. That is important for their future and for the team. But I prefer that we have the regular players,” Penarroya said with a smile after the game.
Having a Louis Labeyrie with a clear mind free of parental concerns seems to be another thing that can help Penarroya and co.