12 March 2012
It's been a while since you have heard from me, but I am a professional basketball player who has been suffering from a more than annoying injury and am not the best example of discipline. I broke my foot in early October and was supposed to return to playing within three months, but the fracture didn't heal as fast as expected.
Now it’s early March and for the first time I see some light again at the end of the tunnel and of course this has boosted my mood. In the end, no matter at what point in your career you are that is all we want. We want to play the game. So, hopefully in some weeks I will be back on the court trying to help the team in making a run to win the Belgian League.
While writing this, I am watching the ACC tournament. For basketball lovers like myself the upcoming month is one of the most exciting periods of the year: March Madness, baby.
While watching these kids play pure basketball I always try to figure out which ones would be a perfect fit for European high-level basketball. Only few will make it to the NBA anyway. It's not easy to tell yet because most players are still very young and do have some time left to develop physically and technically. But I feel that having a good understanding of the game -- combined with an outside shot and good fundamentals -- are a good start if you want to come overseas. The athleticism and potential which seem the main factors in US basketball today of course do help but are less important in Europe.
Watching NCAA basketball also reminds me of the old days in the mid-90’s when plenty of Division I programs were really trying their best to recruit the “young version me”. There must have been more than thirty of them. North Carolina and Tim Duncan's Wake Forest being the biggest names for that era but I can also recall Washington, Washington State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Oregon State, Ohio State and plenty more who were interested in my talents.
We are talking of the past century, when practically nobody was using the Internet or cell phones yet and old school mail and home phones were the means of communication. My family and I received media guides, letters of interest and plenty of documentation on a daily basis -- not to forget about dozens of phone calls, many of which were in the middle of the night. I guess some of these assistants had never heard of the European time zones.
I ended up taking and passing my SAT. But a mix of not feeling ready, some minor physical issues and this overdose of information made me sign a first professional deal in Belgium. I often wonder where going to college could have lead me but looking back on the career I’ve had so far, I can honestly say I have no regrets.
Who is your pick for this year? Although not a big fan of Coach Cal I have to go with Kentucky and the amazing and extremely talented Anthony Davis this time. Few days left before filling out the brackets for our team pool so that is all I can give you at this time. Not that I will win it anyway. I never have and on most occasions it seems to be the guy that has no clue that takes it all, but you never know...
Tomas Van Den Spiegel is a professional basketball player who has played around Europe for the past 16 years. Currently a center with BC Oostende in his native Belgium, Van Den Spiegel has spent time with Fortitudo Bologna, Virtus Roma, CSKA Moscow, Prokom Sopot, Azovmash Mariupol, Real Madrid and Olimpia Milano. A proud father of two children - Ana and Theo - Van Den Spiegel's "Big Man In Belgium" column is featured regularly on Beyond the Beat. You can follow him on Twitter at @tomasvds