Sam Van-Rossom is a 34 year old 188cm point guard that was born in Gent, Belgium that is playing his 16th professional season and 8th with Valencia Basket (ACB-Spain). Last season he played 20 ACB games averaging 8.5ppg, 1.9rpg, 4.1apg, FGP: 52.3%, 3PT: 43.8%, FT: 85.0%; and played 14 Euroleague games averaging 6.9ppg, 2.1rpg, 4.6apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 34.8%, FT: 93.8%. He played 3 seasons with CAI Zaragoza (Spain-ACB) and currently has played 308 ACB games. He began his basketball career with De Pinte and then played 3 seasons with Telindus BC Oostende and 2 seasons with Scavolini Spar Pesaro (Italy-SerieA). He has won 7 professional titles including 2 Eurocup titles and an ACB title. He has taken part at 4 Euro championships. He spoke to germanhoops.com before the Euroleague game against FC Bayern Munich in Munich.
Sam thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you at the moment?
I’m currently in Valencia, Spain. Honestly life is pretty good. We are doing good at the Euroleague stage, but struggling in the ACB. If we can fix some things then we will be ok.
Before we get to your basketball career, let us talk about Covid-19. How did you experience the last 7-8 months with COVID-19? What was the most challenging thing you encountered in these hard times?
It has been a tough and strange time for everyone. It was tough during the first lock down and now a second lock down is coming. We have to adjust to different situations something we aren’t used to. We have to stay positive and find some way to live until that vaccine is found. We all have to find that extra effort to keep going.
How did COVID-19 make you stronger as a man in the last months during your daily dealings on and off the court?
The hardest part for me was at the beginning when the strict lock down came. I was locked up in Spain for 7 weeks. The only thing we could do was go out grocery shopping. The biggest challenge for me was to stay busy. Now with the technology it is easy to stay in touch with people, but imagine what it would have been like 50 years ago. You would have lost touch with many. I tried to stay active as best as I could. COVID-19 really felt like Big Brother without cameras. I didn’t really pick up any new hobbies, but tried picking up on old things like reading and doing puzzles. I tried not to read to much of the papers or watch TV because so much negativity was reported about COVID-19. I feel like if I had done that that I could have been negatively influenced by COVID-19 if I read it each day.
What kind of experience has it been overall for you mentally with COVID-19? Do you have that fear of getting tested positive or are you confident that you will be COVID-19 free because you are disciplined and be careful of not getting in contact with people?
No I don’t have that day to day fear of it. I try to do as much as possible to protect myself. I realize that anybody can get it. This is a new reality that we all have to get used to. I think if people can stay fit and take care of themselevs well then the chances to contract the virus will be less. In Valencia we luckily haven’t had any cases.
Your playing your 8th season for Valencia Basket (ACB) and 11th in the Spanish ACB: How has the league changed over the years?
Back in 2010 the ACB was considered one of the best in Europe if not the best and that is the same today. The league is so competitive. If you don’t give 100% each game you will lose. Many believe that only Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are the best, but there are many many other contenders as well. The quality of Americans then with guys like Pete Mickeal and Louis Bullock was high and it is still as high today. Now you have high quality guys like Jaycee Carroll who has had a long ACB career or Corey Higgins that remain in the league. Now guys prefer to play in the Euroleague than in the NBA, because you can have a longer career here.
It can happen that a player from a country plays a long time for 1 team in his homeland, but it isn’t often that a player from another country plays a long time for one team. Could Valencia ever compete for your first home before Belgium?
That is a tough question, but in the end, there is no place like home. Valencia does fell like home. For an import player to remain 8 years with one club is exceptional. Now your seeing more guys playing longer in one place. When you feel comfortable and play well at a high level, you get that feeling like you can build something.
What has been your secret to remaining with one team. Didn’t you ever want to experience more different cultures and leagues?
It always depends on the circumstance. I wasn’t supposed to come back after my 4th season. I had had my second knee surgery and was a free agent during the summer. I though that my time was up and I needed to change the horizon, but in the end, I played a good Euro championships and proved that I could play 5 games in 7 days and be healthy. I ended up signing back with Valencia. It always depends on the situation. I could have left, but decided to remain. You never know what will happen. A big thing one has to always remember is that you never really have security. It is about being at the right spot at the right time, having the touch of luck, and meeting the right people. I feel if you work hard at your game and take care of your self, then you will have the best control of where you play.
This season Valencia is up and down in the ACB and playing solid in the Euroleague. The club has held on to many guys as well as added many new guys. What kind of a journey do you see the team taking this season?
We are very talented on paper and had great signings this season who have earned their stripes in Europe. A lot of guys have played Euroleague, but not in the ACB and still need to adapt. We still need some time.
You played with many ex NBA players, but how has it been having Derrick Williams as a teammate? Does he have that NBA swagger when he enters the room?
No no he doesn’t bring that NBA swagger. Derrick is really down to earth. You would think a guy with that basketball resume coming from the NBA would have an attitude, but he doesn’t. He is a great player and guy. We have a lot of fun off the court. He talks a little about his NBA career here and there. It is amazing having a guy like him in the league. He was a very high NBA draft pick. Having a guy like that in the league doesn’t happen often.
You and teammate Bojan Dubljevic have been on the team the longest since 8 seasons. Do you guys have a special relationship and how perfect is the understanding of each other on the court?
We have learned to understand each other very well over the years. We always know where the other guy will be on the court and what each others movements are. But that is a normal thing. It is easier like that. Our relationship is very good. We have been through a lot together.
How have you witnessed the development of Slovenian guard Klemen Prepelic? 2 years ago, he averaged 4,3ppg with Real Madrid and last season led the ACB in scoring with Badalona at 21,0ppg. Was his arrival with Real Madrid a bit too early?
I wouldn’t say that his time in Madrid was too early. It always depends what the role is in each team. In Badalona, he was the main weapon while with Real Madrid he wasn’t. On a team like that, there are so many guys that have a lot of responsibility that you can’t put up those huge stats. It didn’t surprise me that he was top scorer in Badalona. He is at a age now where he has adapted well to the game. He knows what he has to do. He will have an important role with us as well. He won’t be the guy he was at Badalona with us, but will have an important role with us.
Let’s talk a bit about your game. You’re a 188cm point guard that can fill the stat sheet at ease. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
At the beginning of my career, many told me hey you look like J.J Barea because of our physical similarities. The NBA is different to the play in Europe. Europe is more technical and more defensive while the NBA is quick paced and offensive. I don’t like to compare my game to an NBA player.
Since coming to Spain you have shot 40% or better from outside 8 times. You have always been a great shooter, but how do you feel have you best respected for other parts of your game over the years?
I think those that know me know that I’m a point guard that likes to control the game and help the team play it’s best. I try to make good shot selection and not take bad shots. One of my best attributes is controlling the pace.
You have never been that consistent scorer in double figures, but overall have been able to put up consistent stats. What has been your secret to really never having an off year?
I think key in my success of being consistent has been not trying to complicate things. I always attempt to find the easiest solution. I feel playing this way also helps the team understand better how I play. Scoring isn’t the most important thing for me. I tend to make plays that aren’t seen on the stat sheet as well. Making the right play at the right time is important. I also like to keep giving that guy who is on fire the ball. I also think my defensive energy is important something that isn’t seen on the stat sheet. I once had a coach who told me during a tough span that to get the confidence back, you should just do the things that come most easy to you. That will help you get back in rhythm. Do the easy things first and the rest will come. All players go through this.
You have won 7 titles in your professional career. You won the 2017 ACB title and 2014 and 2019 Eurocup titles. You can never compare titles, but if you had to pick one that means the most which one would it be?
The most important title was the first one in 2014. It was my first year in Valencia and we had a great season. The ACB title was big as well, but I didn’t play the playoffs, because I was hurt. When you don’t play in the playoffs and win, it feels strange. I just didn’t feel like a big part of it.
You played many many times against Luka Doncic in the ACB and Euroleague. Was there a moment that you remember where you knew early on that he was a special player?
I can remember that at already a young age, he would come on the court being absolute fearless. Many young players will come on the floor afraid, but he came on the court as if he was playing against a junior team. He played so loose already at a young age. He didn’t overthink. He was a big talent and was very mature for his age than anybody else. . You just new he was a special talent. A guy like him comes along every 20 years.
Do you remember a battle or play that you had against him on the court where you left the court as the winner?
It was hard to get the better of him. His last 2 years in Madrid were crazy. When he was really young, you could get into his head at times, because he was inexperienced, but later it was difficult. In his last year, it was really hard to get into his head. I remember having good games against him and he had good games against me. For me it was never a personal thing like ‘oh I’m playing against Luka Doncic today. Team was always the most important thing for me. I had some big wins over Doncic. We won the ACB title in 2017 over Real Madrid.
You played some seasons with Canadian national player Aaron Doornekamp. When he played in Frankfurt, I called him the 7 Am practice player because he was in the gym at that time sometimes. Was it his work ethic or IQ that stood out most?
I think both. Aaron is intelligent and understands the game well. We are only 1 year a part. We both share the same type of work ethic. We both always came early to the gym especially doing prevention exercises when we both had injuries. We both always went hard. I always like to tell young players that it doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you don’t put in the work, you won’t get the maximum result. Work ethic is the number 1 most important thing for a player.
Two seasons ago you played with Matt Thomas. You have played with so many talented players, but did it surprise you when you read his name on the Toronto Raptors roster?
To be honest yes and no. Matt is a specialist. He is a great shooter, but also a real gym rat. He is that special guy that will do everything possible to become the best that he can. Now you see many guys reach the NBA, because they are a specialist. If you’re a very good shooter, then the NBA will draw attention. Matt is the kind of player that can dynamite a game and hit 3 or 4 three’s in a span of a few minutes. I see him as a younger version of a Jaycee Carroll. He improved a lot with Valencia.
In the 2017-2018 season you played with giant Tibor Pleiss. What memories do you have of the German and was it a joy for you watching him show his touch around the rim?
His touch around the rim is exceptional. I always liked to play with him. I knew that when I was in trouble, all I had to do was throw him up an alley-oop. He is such a talented big man with great hands. Rarely do you see a 7 footer that can shoot the three. On defense he was always some kind of a rim protector. He can look back as having had a great career with teams of big history.
In the 2015-2016 season you played with Luke Sikma who has become a mini identity figure in Germany with Alba Berlin. When you see him again year after year in Euroleague games is there anything new that his game still presents to you?
Luke doesn’t surprise me anymore. He plays the position 4 and puts up 12/8/8 stats. He has a point guard mind in a big man’s body. He reads the game differently than others. It was amazing playing with him. He was a great guy. I used to be his caddy on the golf course. I would drive the cart. He is an amazing talent that comes from a basketball family. It is obvious that he knows a lot about the game, because he has been around it his whole life.
In the 2014-2015 season you were teammates with ex NBA player Dwight Buycks. He began in Europe, went to the NBA, came back to Europe, went back to the NBA and has played many years in China. What do you remember from your battles in practice?
Dwight was amazing in the open court and on 1-1. He has been one of the best that I have seen at my position in the 1-1. He has had an amazing career. He always had points in his hands. He is a guy that could easily score 20-30 points in 20 minutes. It was always hard to guard him in practice.
You played with CAI Zaragoza (Spain ACB) from 2011-2014. How valuable was this time for your basketball development and where did you grow most with your game?
My time in Zaragoza was crucial coming from Italy. Italy at that time wasn’t the best time for me. I signed with Milan, but then played 2 seasons with Pesaro and was injured both years. It was difficult finding consistency in Italy. So when I came to Spain, it was the time to improve my game. My first 2 seasons with Zaragoza was huge in my development and everything clicked in my third year. I matured, was in better shape, read the game better and took better shots. All in all, it was my hard work in the first 2 years that helped everything click. Feeling very good mentally and physically helped me perform very well. I am still thankful for the Zaragoza organization today for having confidence in me. They told me from the start that they would have a lot of confidence in me. They told me that they would give me a long term contract and give me the time to grow.
With CAI Zaragoza you played a season with American veteran Bracey Wright. He played in the NBA and had a great European career. Where do you rank him with best American teammates that you ever played with? I can imagine in the top 5.
Basketball wise Bracey was crazy talented. I saw him do amazing things on the court that I had never seen before. I learned so much from him. It was always a challenge to defend him. When he caught fire, he was so hard to stop. I definitely rank him in my top 5 American teammates of all-time.
You also were teammates a few months with my favorite guy Jacob Burtschi. Besides his outstanding versatile play, did his character stand out for you?
My man Jake. Things didn’t turn out so well in Zaragoza for him. He was a great guy. I remember him coming from Germany. I always thought it was a shame that things didn’t work out between him and the club. I think that it was hard for him to find his place and to do what coach wanted him to do. He was a very good player, great guy and we had a great time together. He was a very funny guy. He would make a joke and you would die laughing. I saw pics of him in the Air Force and would make fun of him and say Air Jacob. He was always fun to be with.
You left Belgium in 2008 and played 2 years with Scavolini Spar Pesaro (Italy-SerieA). How do you remember your early days as a professional in Italy? What were your fondest moments playing in Serie A?
I did have good moments in Italy. The first year was a struggle. It was the first time abroad learning a new style and having a new coach. Plus it was rare then for a young Belgium player to move abroad. I was only 22 years old. One I adapted, I had good moments. I got hurt both seasons and got a stamp labeled as being a guy who got injured easily. Once you get a stamp, it is tough getting rid of it. I showed when I went to Zaragoza, that I didn’t miss a game in 3 seasons. Pesaro just didn’t work out my way.
You played your early years with Telindus BC Oostende (D1) playing 12 ULEB Cup games averaging 10.3ppg, 2.8rpg, 2.7apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 63.3%, 3PT: 45.2%, FT: 66.7%; and 36 Belgian League games averaging 11.5ppg, 2.6rpg, Assists-4 (3.2apg), 1.3spg, 2FGP: 62.0%, 3PT: 42.0%, FT: 65.0%. What memories do you have from the Belgium league and would you return home for 1 season to end your career?
The Belgium league back in the day was very good and better than it is now. Back then it was a very good place for American rookies to start their career as well as European prospects. I remember a young D or Fischer playing there. The league has gone down over the years. There are less teams now and the financial reality is a lot different. Early in my career, I wanted to finish my career at home. You should never say never. The most important focus for me now is Valencia. I would like to stay as long as possible with Valencia.
You have played at 4 Euro championships. Is there 1 game that will always stick out in your career that you will never forget?
I think that my most memorable game was beating Lithuania in Riga at the 2015 Euro. At that time, it was big for a country like Belgium to beat a basketball country like Lithuania. Something like that didn’t happen often. Plus we won at the buzzer.
You have had many great Belgium national team teammates but where does a guy like Axel Hervelle stand and can Manu Lecomte grow into a Eurocup/Euroleague player?
Axel showed us what it took to get from Belgium to higher leagues. He had an enormous career in Spain which was huge for Belgium basketball. He will always be one of the best ever Belgium players. He was a real warrior with a great character. He wasn’t the biggest talent that I ever saw, but he was always so hard working and always did everything to help his team win. He paved the way in Belgium for my basketball generation. Manu is a great talent. He is the Belgium player that had the best college career. He played at Miami and Baylor. He has a great opportunity in Frankfurt. He has the chance to improve there and grow. He is still young and has time.
Who was the toughest player that you ever faced as a professional player?
Lately it has been Facundo Campazzo of Real Madrid. He is an amazing competitor and character. He can be a real pain on defense. He makes plays at both ends of the court which you don’t always see. He is a special player and I have a lot of respect for him.
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Juan Marc Jaumin. He is the head coach now of Dutch team Den Bosch. He was the point guard my first year at Oostende. He was a very special player. I learned so much from him.
Rafael Martinez He played 11 years with Valencia. A real winner and big competitor. He is a great shooter. He was recently passed by Jamar Smith as the all-time three pointers made in the Eurocup. He was a huge support to me.
Romain Sato He has had a great career all over Europe. He was there my first year in Valencia. A great teammate and guy.
Pleas construct your own personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present heads?
Jordan, Lebron, Kareem, Kobe
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
What was the last movie that you saw?
I don’t remember the last movie. Currently I’m reading Way to freedom from Nelson Mandela.
Thanks Sam for the chat.