02 December 2011
Hey all, I am Tomas Van Den Spiegel, a 33-year-old Belgian basketball pro who’s been around playing all over Europe for the last 16 years.
I am currently playing for BC Oostende from Belgium but I have played for teams from Italy, Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Spain. I am married to former pro volleyball player, Julie, and am proud father to 2 1/2 year-old, Ana, and 3-month-old Theo. I will try to use this column to tell you how our current season is going, but I will also try to give you a look at some of the things --good or bad -- sometimes even funny, I’ve gone through during this 16-year journey.
I turned pro at 17-years-old, which is not unusual for Europe. I also tried to combine being a basketball player with some studies, but gave that up at the age of 20: too stubborn according to my parents, very ambitious according to myself. At 22, I left my home country Belgium to sign with European powerhouse Fortitudo Bologna, and after that also played for Virtus Roma, CSKA Moscow, Prokom Sopot, Azovmash Mariupol, Real Madrid and Olimpia Milano. I can now say I am quite happy with the way my career went -- a combination of hard work, making the right decisions, taking advice from the right people.
And like for everything else in life, luck -- lots of luck.
After struggling with some injuries during the 2009-10 season, I decided last March it was time for the final chapter of my career and I signed a four and a half year deal with the team from home that I had already played for from 1997 until 2001. The team was coached by my long time friend, former teammate and Unicaja Malaga and Real Madrid point guard Jean-Marc 'Jimmy' Jaumin. I was always skeptical towards being friends with your coach but after some time it looked like we were going to work together just fine, sharing the same ideas about basketball and the same ambitions.
But then in our first game of this season -- some 2 months ago -- I broke my foot.
When Matt Lojeski, our American forward (Hawaii 2007), tore his quadriceps just a week later, I knew we were in trouble. So the team started underachieving and two days ago Jimmy got fired. Part of the job for a coach, I guess, but I am convinced he will bounce back soon and I surely wish him all he best.
Personally now I want to get healthy as soon as possible, which should be before the end of the year, to be back at full force after our Christmas break.
I am still very eager to play, and it's very frustrating that your body starts letting you down sometimes but there is nothing you can do but accept it. Since I am on crutches, there’s not much I can do right now but being on the computer, reading, and watching basketball games on TV.
I am more of a European basketball guy, watching plenty of Euroleague basketball. Not that I do not enjoy NBA basketball, but I like the 'team before everything' approach that we have over here. Maybe that is also because I've been part of this game for so long, and that I know most of the players and coaches that are still around. Having played on nine different teams I have former teammates on the court in almost every European game I am watching, so probably I am a little biased. In the current NBA, I have only played with Dirk Nowitzki and Hedo Turkoglu on a European select as youngsters and Marco Belinelli and Carlos Delfino during our time for Fortitudo Bologna from Italy.
I have plenty of more to tell you, and also lots of time for the moment so expect me back soon for more at Beyond the Beat.
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