Starting from Miribilla, all of Bilbao is behind Ludde Hakanson

2022-11-06T13:16:12+00:00 2022-11-06T13:54:20+00:00.

Cesare Milanti

06/Nov/22 13:16

The Swedish leader is carrying Bilbao in the beginning of the 2022-23 Basketball Champions League

By Cesare Milanti/

A week after Lenovo Tenerife beat BAXI Manresa in the 2021-22 Basketball Champions League Final Four in Miribilla, Bilbao Basket was facing Real Betis in the same venue.

It was probably the most important game for the Basque club since the 2019-20 ACB League season when they managed to qualify for the last stage of the tournament despite the issues related to the pandemic outbreak.

Alex Mumbru’s team started the game hot, ending the first quarter already up by 8 points. But then Shannon Evans emerged and killed it in overtime, giving his team the 99-98 win and crushing Bilbao’s hope to get into the playoffs picture.

Ludde Hakanson came off the bench in that game, and scored 17 points, proving to be one of the key figures on which to build around the roster of the following season. And guess what: it happened.

Because of an injury that is currently forcing Andrew Goudelock to miss a big part of the 2022-23 season, coach Jaume Ponsarnau is giving the 26-year-old Swedish point guard enough confidence, and vice versa.

Starting 3-0 in the Basketball Champions League, in the first season with European duties for this team since the 2017-18 EuroCup, the Barcelona product is showing off his talents game after game.

“Talking about personal performances, I think this is my best season so far. I would say I’m one of the leaders of the team. It’s my third season in Bilbao, I know the club and the city. I’m really comfortable here”, he said in an interview with Eurohoops.

He started his career in Sweden with Alvik Stockholm but joined the Barcelona Academy when he was only 15 years old, getting the most opportunities in the Spanish landscape. Except for a couple of seasons with VEF Riga and Zielona Gora, he has always played in the ACB League.

Sevilla, Fuenlabrada, Estudiantes, and now Bilbao, where he arrived in 2020. And he’s adoring it so far. “I love the city, the people, and the food is amazing. We have the Bilbao Arena in Miribilla in which our amazing fans give us extra energy to play. I like playing golf in the city, it’s amazing”, he commented on the Biscay capital.

If his first two seasons in the Basque Country saw him shine with discontinuity, considering his role as the technical leader of the second unit in most of the games, this is the year in which Ludde Hakanson can finally make the jump to the élite of both the ACB League and the Basketball Champions League.

Bilbao is facing some issues in the domestic league, the national championship with the fiercest competition in the Old Continent, despite starting really well on a 3-0 record in the first three games. In Europe, however, they confirmed themselves week after week, still being undefeated.

68-54 on the road against ERA Nymburk, 80-66 at home against last year’s FIBA Europe Cup champions Bahcesehir, and 85-80 in Bosnia and Herzegovina against Igokea. In these three encounters, Ludde Hakanson proved to be the best player on the court for his side.

He’s currently averaging 14.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 6.7 assists (9th in the competition) per game, shooting with incredible percentages: 62.5% from two on 5.3 attempts, 46.2% from three-point territory, and 100% from the charity stripe.

These look like MVP numbers in a race that could possibly involve other guards like Joe Ragland, TJ Shorts II, and Errick McCollum. But leaving the numbers aside, he’s mostly happy with how the team is playing.

“I know we are a good and solid team. We started the ACB League really well too, and the level of ACB is unbelievable. I think we expected to win games in the BCL too. It’s a different kind of basketball, for sure. We’re happy with the wins in Europe so far”, he said.

Spanish teams stole the show in last year’s Basketball Champions League Final Four, hosted on one of Bilbao’s hills, from where you can see the sun shining in the Nervion river when it doesn’t rain.

Miribilla was the main attraction for a few days at the beginning of May, and rightfully so. But the home side wasn’t on the court to try to bring home the first-ever European trophy in the club’s history. Maybe this time, wherever the Final Four will be organized, they can eventually fight for it.

However, Ludde Hakanson keeps the expectations low. “We honestly haven’t really thought about the end of the competition. We think game after game, and now our goal is to finish first in the group. And then let’s see what we can do next. We do not really have time to think that much, because we play every three days”, he commented on what the season could reserve for his team.

And if the 2022-23 Basketball Champions League season is giving Bilbao fans the best version of Ludde Hakanson, who was also inserted in the BCL Top-Five Week 1, there’s not only a club but a whole country which is on his shoulders.

In what looks like an impossible mission, Sweden hopes to find a way to get a ticket to the 2023 FIBA World Cup. After getting to the second round of the European qualifiers, they now need to win every game to keep the dream alive, hoping that Slovenia will eventually slip up.

They have a 3-5 record, but most of the games came to an end on the line, with Ludde Hakanson delivering once again. His 31 points (career-high) in the thrilling 105-98 double OT home loss prove it.

Before the games against EuroBasket participants Estonia and Finland, the Swedish leader had nothing but beloved words when speaking of playing for his country. “Playing for the National team is the most beautiful thing you can do. It’s something that you do for your country and every time I can I try to go there to rock the Swedish jersey”, he commented.

Sweden has very few chances to make it to the World Cup but never say never. “We need to win all of our games to have a chance to qualify for the World Cup. I think we did pretty well in the first qualification group, basketball in Sweden is growing and it’s good to have the opportunity to qualify”, Ludde Hakanson added.

PHOTO CREDIT: Basketball Champions League