Ondrej Balvin is back for the 2023-24 season and so is his EuroCup blog! Follow everything going on in Riga with Ondrej and his faithful dog Charlie as Prometey Slobozhanske tries to go all the way and become the first Ukrainian team to win the EuroCup!
Ondrej Balvin, Prometey: 'Let's see what the season brings'
Hello again! This is Ondrej Balvin of Prometey Slobozhanske, back for another BKT EuroCup season after reaching the semifinals six months ago. Does that make us one of the favorite teams this season? Well, I'm not sure if I'm the one to judge if we are favorites or not, but obviously we would like to continue the way we played last year and we definitely want to fight for the highest spot, so let's see what the season brings.
We want to build on last season. To begin with, I think we are a better three-point shooting team this season. Last year, I think three-point shooting was kind of one of our weaknesses. Right now, we have a lot of new players that are great shooters, so hopefully this is going to be one aspect where we are going to improve compared to last season.
It was a long summer for me, as Prometey was one of the first team to finish the 2022-23 season. Personally, it was a kind of interesting summer. I resigned with Prometey but asked for permission to play elsewhere because otherwise I would have a really long break, basically four months, before we started the pre-season. I never had this much free time in my life! I always went with the national team or something, and maybe had two or three weeks off each summer, that's enough for me.
This time, I had four months off for the first time in my life, and I didn't know what to do with myself, so my agent came up with this interesting idea. He said: "Hey, there is a summer league in China and they are playing for two months, you can make some money and it will be a new, interesting experience." Obviously, when I resigned with Prometey, I asked them if it would be okay with them for me to go there, and they said "yeah, no problem", so I spent the summer playing basketball in China.
I had the experience of playing in Japan, so it was not such a cultural shock for me. Still, there were some funny moments. One of the funniest things is that I lived in a city with an eight-million population. I was asking about the city and they were like "oh, this is a small city". And I looked at him and replied "hey, my whole country have like 10.5 million people, and you want to tell me that an eight-million city is small?" That was kind of funny.
Being white and tall in there was also interesting: everyone was staring at me. I am really used to it, people usually stare at me because of my height, but it was funnier in China. I almost caused this guy an accident, because even people who drive a motorbike, they would slow down and look at me, because they don't see many guys in China looking like me. It was raining a little but and this one guy slipped on the motorbike, so I almost caused an accident!
Last season I did not tell you that I have a dog; his name is Charlie and he is a big part of my life. I even have a tattoo on my forearm! It's actually funny and I think he is enjoying this basketball life, too. It's not easy but I always find ways to take care of him. It has been an experience for me, especially in the beginning. But I think it's something that I'm really always excited about.
You can have a bad game, a good game, whatever, but when I come home, he doesn't care about how I played. He just always come to me and brings me some toy he wants to play with and it is something that completely takes my mind away from basketball. It's really nice to have him around. I got him in my fourth year in Sevilla, so we have been together for nine years.
Charlie is a flat-coated retriever, more or less similar to the golden retriever. Traveling with him is kind of fun because he has taken me to places I would never expect to visit. For example, when I lived in Gran Canaria, after my first season there, I actually had my car on the island, one of my friends brought it for me. So I had to take a ferry from Gran Canaria to Cadiz and then drive like 20-25 hours back to the Czech Republic. It was an interesting experience. I could have taken a flight but if there is a possibility to drive to that place, I prefer to drive because it is less stressful for him.
Speaking of traveling, we are going to some nice cities this season, even though our first game is at home against Hamburg. It is better than last year. I am not saying that we travelled to bad cities, but other than Barcelona (close to Badalona), we didn't really go to any major city and this year, we will go to a lot of big ones: Paris, London, Vilnius, Ljubljana, Venice, Istanbul, Barcelona. There will be good traveling connections, too. Last season, I remember when we went to Brescia. First of all, we got our asses kicked, and we had to travel for 15-16 hours to play the game. So I am definitely enjoying playing in bigger cities, definitely better connections.
Personally, I think I have been to all these cities. I was in London with my school when I was a kid, so I don't remember that much. I won't have that much time but I can see it with different eyes now. I have been to Paris a few times with my ex-girlfriend. It is a romantic city and you should visit it with your significant other. I am really excited to see these cities again. It's going to be a nice experience and in a different time, because you usually go to these cities during the summer.
It is a new EuroCup season but my personal goals remain the same. Right now, I am not a young fellow chasing good numbers so that I can find a better team or anything like that. I am in a really great spot, on a great team with a lot of potential so for me, more than anything, it is about team play and continuing to build on what we did last season. This means more than any personal goal and more than anything, I hope we can play in the EuroCup Finals.
I am sure more and more people will come to see us. Last season, our club tried a lot of things to bring the fans to the arena and towards the end of the season, it started to pay off. Our president also did an amazing job, bringing buses full of fans from Ukraine, so we had support. It just shows that Prometey is trying to do something special not just for sports, but also for Ukrainian fans. If we keep working in the right direction, all of us, good things will happen!