Monday, September 8, 2008

Last Year in Review

Last year I played with the same team in the EBA League, the 5th league in Spain. There were about 70 teams in the league, divided into 5 regional divisions. At the end of the year, only 4 teams would move up to the 4th league.

The goal at the beginning of the season was clear: move up to the higher league. To complete this task, the team bought 6 veteran, experienced players. These guys played all of their careers in the top Spanish leagues and were the backbone of our team. The rest of us were young players who hustled everyday in practice and did the dirty work on the court (by veteran I mean 29 and older; by young I mean 24 and younger). Our coach was one of the most renowned and successful coaches in Spanish basketball history. He was the last piece of the puzzle and was supposed to lead us to glory and fame.

From the team standpoint, our season was a big success. We won our division and the playoffs, thus moving up to the next league. We did a lot of celebrating throughout the month of May...
From my individual standpoint it was a learning year. Basketball, just like any other sport, is a game of details; everyone can learn to dribble, shoot, pass, play defense, etc. It is the details, such as movement without the ball, reading the defense, running of screens, cutting and passing at the right time, that differentiate the bad from the good and the good from the best. And it was quickly obvious, pretty much after the first week of practice, that I had a lot to learn (and still do).

Let me assure you that the process of learning the details is very easy, yet very humiliating. Maybe some examples are sufficient at this point:

You are in the post playing defense. Now, if the ball goes over your head (without your notice, of course) and your player scores an easy lay-up, you think to yourself lucky play. But if this happens three times a practice over a span of one week, you realize that it’s not a lucky play, but your inability to play proper defense.

You are playing pick and roll with your wing. At the end of the play your teammate passes you the ball at the most unexpected time and you don’t catch it. The second time this happens, your wing (being a considerate teammate) explains to you that you need to be somewhere else in order to catch the ball. The third time you don’t catch it, your wing tells you that he just wont pass you the ball no more (trust me, he didn’t pass me the ball for the rest of the day). The next day it’s the same story, except that my wing didn’t pass me the ball after the first time I didn’t catch the pass (he was still a considerate teammate though).

I think you get the idea. I was very fortunate last year because I was with experienced players who taught me how to play and with a coach who thought I was worthy of playing a lot of minutes. In the end it was a good year for me: I averaged about 20 minutes a game, I got better as the year moved on, and the team decided to sign me for another year.


Preston said...

Martin, this is good stuff! I was wondering what the culture is like there? What do you do for fun when you're not playing or practicing hoops?

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing that Spanish was one of the languages that you didn't speak - was the language barrier difficult for you? Great to hear what you are up to - we missed you in Vermont! Any plans for a trip? :)