“Brown was one of us, part of the family” Valencia’s Xabi Lopez-Arostegui talks Zo Brown, Eurobasket, Euroleague

Dec 7, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv takes on Valencia in Euroleague Round 12 action on Thursday (21:05) at Yad Eliyahu in Tel Aviv as they will look to get back onto the winning track in continental play. The Yellow & Blue are coming off a blowout win over Hapoel Beer Sheva in Israeli league play and hope that their performance will carryover against the Spaniards.

However, Oded Katash’s squad will be without big man Alex Poythress who will be out for 4-6 months due to a hand injury that will need surgery. Wade Baldwin should also be back after missing last game due to a slight injury and should be in a chipper mood after having a new baby earlier in the week. Baldwin’s backcourt partner Lorenzo Brown put up his career high in points with 36 last week at Bayern Munich in a tough loss in Germany.

Xabier López-Arostegui – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

One of Valencia’s stars in Xabi Lopez-Arostegui is very familiar with Brown after having the opportunity to share the floor with the point guard earlier in the summer with Spain as they captured the European Championship together in Germany.

The Sports Rabbi’s Ben Pask had the chance to sit down with Arostegui just after he landed in Israel to tall about his time together with Brown, Valencia’s season thus far, his idols and role models along with Juancho “Bo Cruz” Hernangomez and how he began playing the game of basketball.

“I started playing basketball as child as I had an older brother who was playing and I went to watch him play both at his practices and games. After playing in my hometown school, I moved to Badalona where I played for ten years before coming to Valencia where I have been over the past two seasons.”

Rudy Fernandez and Xabier López-Arostegui – Photo Credit: FIBA

Badalona of course is known for its ability to nurture young up and coming players and has featured many future stars who plied their trade both in the NBA and in Europe, “Badalona is a big club for young players, so Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fenandez were players on that team and were ones that I looked up to. I also enjoyed watching Juan Carlos Navarro and I was able to play against him in his last season.”

So far this season Valencia has been a pleasant surprise with a 5-6 record while featuring a number of Euroleague rookies Arostegui explained, “We are playing well and have lost some of the games by a few points. I believe that we are competing every game and wee have beaten big teams on the road which is how we want to play. For both myself and other players on the team it’s our first experience in the Euroleague. It’s a tough competition with the best players and great atmosphere. We are enjoying it and are trying to do our best.”

The 25-year old feels that he is achieving his personal goals as he improves as each day goes by, “Everybody wants to be in this type of situation and playing against great teams and players with super crowds. I am very happy that I can show that I can play at the highest level and help the team win, so it’s perfect.”

Xabier López-Arostegui – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

As for the team as a while, Arostegui feels that they are putting in the time and effort as the collective continues to take a step up, “We have a lot of young players and ones that are new to the Euroleague. The goal is to compete against everybody and get as many wins as we can and see where we are at the end of the regular season. We are working hard and playing with confidence.”

Former European star Alex Mumbru is the new head coach of Valencia having taken over from Joan Penarroya and while he had a challenging start to the season with so many players participating in the Eurobasket, things are now coming around for the club.

“We have a lot of players who came from the European Championship and almost half of the team arrived late so now we have had more time together and he has explained how he wants us to play, aggressive and with rhythm. In the Euroleague you need to have physicality and he is trying to make us play like this with energy on defense and confidence on offense to show our talent.”

Xabier López-Arostegui – Photo Credit: FIBA

As for the Eurobasket itself, Arostegui was part of Sergio Scariolo’s Spain team that took home the gold in what was an incredible experience, “It was special. I didn’t expect it and no one was expecting it at the beginning of the summer as we were just going there to build the team and build chemistry and to play freely. At the end we built a family and a group of friends that saw that we could beat anyone. Playing with one of my idols in Rudy was like a dream. To spend time with him for more than a month in a half was amazing.”

One of the “stars” of the Spanish team was no doubt Juancho “Bo Cruz” Hernangomez who starred in the Adam Sandler movie, “Hustle” that came out earlier in 2022. Arostegui was able to play with not only Juancho who plays for the Toronto Raptors but also his brother Willy who is with teh New Orleans Pelicans.

Lorenzo Brown, Juancho Hernangomez and Xabier López-Arostegui – Photo Credit: FIBA

“Juancho and Willy teated me like one of their brothers. I had the opportunity to be with them at the Olympics and it was a great chance to know what their work ethic is like and how they take care of their bodies off of the court and how personality and professionalism is.”

“I know that Juancho really enjoyed doing the movie and acting, It was a unique experience and he liked it, but I know that he likes to also be Juancho the basketball player first and the movie second.”

Another Spain teammate is Maccabi Tel Aviv point guard Lorenzo Brown who was stellar during the Eurobasket and perhaps could’ve even taking home the MVP award. Arosetgui shared his thoughts about facing Brown and what the yellow-and-blue brought to the table as he helped Spain take home the gold.

Lorenzo Brown and Xabier López-Arostegui – Photo Credit: FIBA

“Lorenzo is a great guy, very calm and very humble. He is very talented basketball wise and he came in the summer to help us and he played amazing. But even if he didn’t play amazing he was one of us, part of the family and I think he enjoyed the time with us. He is super skilled and super talented and he knows how to play basketball for the team and he loves basketball also.”

As for the keys to finding a way to take the win at a packed Yad Eliyahu on Thursday, Arostegui explained that it all goes back to the basics, “We need to play like we want to play, play tough defense and make them struggle on defense and form that point we have to be aggressive on offense and play with confidence with our talent and show that we can compete and beat everybody.”

Xabier López-Arostegui – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

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