Damjan Rudež discusses his one-year deal with UCAM Murcia, finding a good fit overseas

Damjan Rudez, UCAM Murcia, Spanish ACB

Damjan Rudež had a great weekend in Croatia, celebrating his home country’s appearance in the FIFA World Cup Final. Despite its 4-2 loss to France, it was a moment, an experience that Croatian’s like Rudež will never forget.

Then, Damo finalized his basketball plans for the next season. Appearing on the Pacers Podcast, Rudež explained his decision to sign a one-year deal with UCAM Murcia.

“It’s a first division team. I’m very happy and excited to be going back to Spain. It’s a country I’ve spent almost three seasons in and (I have) great memories there. It’s definitely the strongest national league in Europe, without a doubt. Super strong, competitive, great place to live, and I’m very, very excited about the new opportunity.

“The last season (was) kind of rocky for me. I changed teams three times in one year, which has never happened before in my career and it was kind of shocking, and both a learning experience at the same time. But I don’t want it to happen again so I’m hopefully going to be in a place where I can have some stability, a peace of mind, and also be able to give my best basketball performances.”

[Click here to listen to the entire podcast with Rudež]

Rudež most recently played for AS Monaco, finishing second in the Basketball Champions League.

Here in the U.S., we often hear horror stories from players about their experiences overseas. Maybe it’s a bounced paycheck, poor communication, housing or just a bad fit. So I asked Rudež what the process of finding a team has been like for him.

“For us European players, it’s obviously a little bit different having all the, let’s call it inside info, being here in Europe. Playing against these guys and these teams, you pretty much know or somewhat have a picture of what kind of country you’re going to, what kind of league is it, and info is more accessible than for American players who have to come play overseas to Europe, and then the only person they can talk to is their agent, who can either tell them the truth or a lie. Which can make a huge difference for them coming here to Europe.

“For me now, personally, the goal was to go back to Spain because, like I said, that’s a place where they know me, they know I play good basketball there, I felt at home there. I really felt right at home. It’s a country very similar to Croatia, where I’m from. But the biggest part was it’s the biggest stage and it’s the strongest league. You play against the strongest teams and the level of basketball is really, really super high. It’s just a great league to play in and I definitely got my wish fulfilled. I wanted to go back to Spain and luckily enough it happened.”

Rudež spent three seasons in the NBA with three different teams after Larry Bird originally brought the Croatian sharpshooter to the United States for the 2014-15 season. It took him several months to adapt to the extended three-point line, but then he shot better than 52 percent after All-Star break and led all rookies in three-point shooting for the season.

See Also: Rudež reflects on his ‘amazing time’ in Indy

Then he was traded to Minnesota for a season, waived, and joined coach Frank Vogel in Orlando.

“It was a fantastic experience for me in the NBA, what can I say? I spent three years there, I gave it all I got.  … I really wanted to seize every possible opportunity of a possible NBA contract. I told myself as long as there’s a one-percent chance of playing in the NBA or of doors opening up, I’m going to go for the chance. And I did, and I’m not sorry even though it led to a very unstable and difficult season (in Orlando), but I have no regrets.”

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