Highlights / Biography / Year by Year
My childhood and why I chose basketball
I was born in the town of El Masnou on October 21, 1990. This town, for those who have never been there, is a pretty little coastal town 12 km (8 miles) north of Barcelona, known for its marina and especially for having really nice people living there. That was where I grew up and began to develop, first as a person then later as a basketball player. Although I’m now 1.91 m tall (6’3”) and I have an arm span of 2.06 m (6’9”), I started playing football, or soccer, in my school yard at Escuelas Pias in El Masnou, and at the Casino in my town, which was, in the summers, like my second home. However, it was my parents Esteve and Tona who always instilled in me that sport was the perfect complement for achieving what I wanted the most: To make friends.
Soon I saw my brother Marc playing basketball better than anyone, and it was probably when I was watching him that I was bitten by the basketball bug. I wanted to do the incredible things that he did, in fact, when I went with my mother at the age of 4 to watch my brother train, I never stopped asking when I could start to go to training and in the stands I kept imitating my brother, until one day I was given a test and they told me that I didn’t do badly at all, so that was where I started out in the sport that so far is my favourite of all.
And that was how in September 1995 (at the age of 4) I joined my local club: El Masnou Basketball, playing in a mini-basketball team until the year 2001, although in fact I always played more in the U-12 or U-13 categories than in my own.
One day, at the age of 10, when I told my father that I wanted to play soccer, he gave me a look that I can still remember now. However, he’s a basketball coach and a pathological hoops fan and he was shrewd enough not to say no to me. That was when I signed up with the El Masnou Football Club. The coach spoke highly of me to my father and about my chances at soccer, and my father kept quiet, waiting for the inevitable to happen. So what happened? Well, nothing serious, I just either didn’t get passed the ball or only got it occasionally and I don’t like that, so after a few games I said to my father, "Hey Dad, can I go back to basketball?" The smile returned to his face.
My first achievements
Basketball Club, where I had already started achieving things together with my friends, like: During the 1999-2000 Season we were Champions at Level A Group 2. We were also 3rd in the Escobasquet Mini Tournament. During the 2000-2001 season we were runners-up in the Escobasquet Mini Tournament, where I was the top scorer and I was included in the Team of the Tournament. In the 2001-2002 season we came 3rd in Preferente B. That season I was called by the Catalonia representative basketball team for my age group and I won the Spanish Championship with this team in Blanes.
It was during the following season (2002-2003), when my parents told me I would have to leave my local club and join what until now has been my Club: Joventut of Badalona. Over the years this club has been adept at monitoring children and youth players at other clubs, but in my case it wasn’t necessary because my brother had preceded me in joining their ranks two years earlier. I realised that it was getting serious (the number of training sessions, more professional coaches), and that despite being a game and giving me the opportunity to make more friends, now we were always fighting for first or second place and coming second was considered a failure.
And so, in sporting terms, my team, under the direction of the excellent coach and companion Marc Calderón, started to win everything it could. With the Joventut U-14 team, that season we were winners of the L’Hospitalet Tournament, Champions of Catalunya (Les Roquetes), winners of the Escobasquet Tournament and were also included in the Team of the Tournament, as well as being runners-up at the Spanish Championship in Avilés. As for the Catalan representative team, we took fourth place in the Spanish Championship in Lloret de Mar. Also, that was the first year that the Spanish national team for my age group selected me, in Guadalajara.
In U-14 A in the 2003-2004 season with Joventut, we were Champions of the L’Hospitalet Tournament, and personally I was the MVP of this tournament, Champions of the Olmedo Tournament and the Mini Copa in Seville, where I was named top scorer and MVP of the tournament. We were also Champions of Catalonia and Spain. That season with the Catalonia U-14 team we won the Spanish Championship in Lloret de Mar, and I was also named MVP of the tournament, as well as being the top scorer. I was selected for the Spain team in Granada and we won the Torneo de la Amistad 89 in the town of Roda (Albacete), where I was named Best Passer at the tournament.
. In the 2004-2005 season, now with the Joventut Badalona U-16 team, we were Champions of the Torneo del Moral in Santa Coloma de Gramanet and personally I was named Best Passer and top scorer of the tournament, as well as being runners-up in the Championships of Catalonia. With the Catalonia team we were runners-up at the 89 Generation in Santiago de Compostela, and I was named Best Passer at the tournament. That year with the Spain team, we won the Iscar Tournament (Valladolid), were Champions of the Lignano Olympics (Italy) and took third place in Europe with the Spanish U-16 team in León.
In the 2005-2006 season with Joventut de Badalona A, we were champions of the Andorra Tournament, third in the L’Hospitalet Tournament and I was named top scorer in the Tenerife Tournament. For the first time, that season I was selected for the Joventut Badalona U-20 team in Torrejón, that season was also the first time Aíto Garcia Reneses called me to train with the Joventut senior team from the ACB.
. I remember it really well, I was 14 years old and I was watching a training session with my friend Guillem, when suddenly Aíto turned to me and asked me if I wanted to train, I told him I had no shoes, but fortunately my friend Guillem, who is no longer with us, lent me his shoes, which gave me good luck. Unfortunately I never got to thank him properly. That season, to be specific on October 15, 2005, I made my ACB debut on the road at C.B. Granada, playing for 5 minutes and managing to score 2 points, make 1 assist and get 2 steals. At 14 years, 11 months and 24 days, I was the youngest player to make his debut in the ACB, winning that game in the end. That season, now with the ACB team, we were Champions of the Catalan League and Champions of the FIBA Eurocopa.
I want to make special mention of the big chance that was taken on me by my coach Aíto Garcia Reneses, not just for picking me for the first team at such an early age, but also for having passed on all his know-how on and off the court to me. I think that for the Spanish basketball, it is a luxury to have people like Aíto, who have contributed so much to the regeneration of the sport, contributing their knowledge of the game, as well as making bold decisions to trust in the kids coming out of the youth systems and he knows better than anyone how to catapult someone upwards with force and resilience. Thanks to the teachings of Aíto and, of course, to the professionalism of my new team-mates, such as Rudy with his energy and kinship in both personal and sporting terms, and the scouting work done by a certain Elmer Bennet, 20 years older than me, it was all made much simpler: a debut on the big stage in the ACB, the second most competitive professional basketball league in the world.
I think that in sporting terms and despite my debut in the ACB that season, it would not be fair not to mention that there was a Before and After in my sporting life around being with the Spain U-16 team at the Linares Tournament (European U-16 Championships). This also occurred to me later at the Beijing Olympics, which I will talk about later. Linares was a fantastic tournament and a one-of-a-kind experience. I think that I will never forget what happened there or the way it happened. I have great memories of all the members of my team and the coach Jota Cuspineda, as well as the support from the Andalusian crowd which gave us the strength we needed to achieve victory in the end. Regardless of the fact that at a sporting and team level we became European champions and that personally I was named top scorer, top rebounder, top in assists, and MVP of the tournament, I cannot avoid telling you about the final minutes of the passionate final against Russia, in which I scored 51 points. There were two overtime periods, the first of them after a last-second three-point shot which I made from the halfway line, shooting over three opponents and in the middle of a jump that looked a bit like a tightrope walker in a circus ring. However, there is no doubt that someone up there caught hold of that shot and led it into the basket. For this reason, whenever I go onto a basketball court I point up at the sky, thanking Guillém Raventós, not only for his friendship, but also for lending me his shoes, and for having reached down from heaven and taken hold of the ball and pushed it with all his strength through the rim at Linares. The 2006-2007 season was my first regular season with DKV Joventut in the ACB, the club that I committed myself to professionally for 5 seasons on the day that I turned 16. That season we came third in the ACB, and I was personally named Best Stealer in the Euroleague and the ACB, as well as ACB Rising Star. That season, at the age of 16, was a true luxury for me, making my debut in Europe in the Euroleague on the courts of the Top 16. I remember how frankly awesome it was to face legendary players like Bodiroga or Papalucas. I also remember the courts of Partizan Belgrade and Maccabi Tel-Avi, and how impressed I was by all the pressure exerted by their fans. It was really incredible to have these experiences at such a young age. With the Spain junior (U-18) team we came 5th in Madrid in the European Championship, after losing only one match against Serbia that prevented us from playing in the group of 1st to 4th place. Personally I was included in the Team of the Tournament, although this piece of candy did little to make up for the bad taste of coming 5th.
During the 2007-2008 season with DKV Joventut, we were champions of the Catalan League and the ULEB Cup in Turin, coming third in the ACB, as well as Copa del Rey Champions in Vitoria. I would like to make a special mention about this, my first big tournament victory with my team, DKV Joventut. What happened in Vitoria was great, and even better when you think that my team had not won this competition for years, to be precise since 1996-1997. We reached the final by defeating Real Madrid in the semi-final and in the final against TAU, who were on their home court as organisers of the tournament, it was a real pleasure to win the tournament. It was my first experience of a large celebration, and we did it first with the team and then in Badalona in front of our fantastic fans, who again took to the streets and squares of Badalona, finally filling the Palau Olimpic, lifting the Cup ten years after the last time in perfect synchrony with the team. During this season, on a personal level, I was named Best Young Player in Europe, as well as being included in the All-ACB First Team. It was at the end of this season when I had the immense sporting pleasure of being selected by Aíto, freshly named as coach of the Spanish national basketball team, to go to the Olympic Games in Beijing. Needless to say, going to the Olympics at the age of 17 was a big deal for me. I have to admit that the challenge was enormous, since I knew there was an established team that was coming to these Olympic Games as the winners of the World Championship tournament held in Japan. This situation was daunting and made a big impression on me, especially since I was the rookie of the team. But after a short time, in the preparation for the Olympics and during the tour around Spain, I noticed that they were not only giants as players on the court but they were even more so as people, making the difficult things easy for me. Beijing was the biggest thing that has happened so far in my sporting life. The sensation of being an Olympian for the first time and representing your country at the zenith of world sport: The Olympic Games. I will never forget that at the age of 17 I was playing in an Olympic final against Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Lebron James. However, everyone felt that the silver medal was like a gold medal and to have it hanging around my neck was an indescribable experience that I will never forget. And this has been my life so far, which, as you can see, has been short but intense. None of this would have been possible without the support of many people, but especially my family, friends, companions, coaches, and also a list of people who have believed in me and my abilities, and who I would like here and now to thank sincerely with all my heart.