Falco’s Somogyi dreams of facing Burgos - then playing for them
To encourage the development of more young local talents, the Basketball Champions League requires its teams to register at least 5 Home Grown Players on the game score sheet (if 11 or more players listed, otherwise 4 if the roster has 10 or fewer players). Many of these players are considered top level talents in their respective countries and I will be taking a look at some of them over the course of the season.
SZOMBATHELY (Hungary) - Not often will a Basketball Champions League rookie say he really wants to square off against the two-time reigning champions of the competition. But then again, Adam Somogyi of Falco Szombathely and Hereda San Pablo Burgos have a different bond.
The 21-year-old is making his BCL debut this season in his native Hungary with Falco partially because of the dominance of Burgos. The Spanish club took a chance on the point guard this off-season and inked him to a one-year contract with an option for two more seasons. And instead of having him sit on the bench in Spain, Burgos' leadership agreed to loan Somogyi to Falco for this season.
"It was one of the best situations for sure: playing in the BCL in the same competition," said Somogyi, who is playing in Group D with Falco while also keeping an eye on Group H with Burgos.
The Budapest native admits he was surprised this past summer when Burgos came asking him to sign.
"It shocked me. I had put in the work, and I am a hard worker, and I just want to be the best possible version of myself. But it shocked me," said Somogyi, who had played the past two seasons for Hungarian side Debreceni Egyetem and averaged 6.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 2020-21 as a 20-year-old. "You don't have to say anything about Burgos. They are legendary with back-to-back BCL championships. It felt great. It helped me push even harder in the preseason to get ready for the season. It was a great day. I didn't really expect it."
Somogyi explained that Burgos first wanted to bring him into the team's training camp and see if he could compete.
"I heard that they were satisfied with me but couldn't give me enough playing time for my development, enough playing time to get better during the season. So they thought it was a better option to loan me for this season so I can get better," he said.
Tough start in Spain
Somogyi may not be playing for Burgos this season, but he already has three years of experience in Spain under his belt. In fact, Spain also was where he suffered through his toughest time in the game - a stretch from which he came out stronger.
He joined Real Betis Sevilla when he was just 16 years old. And it was a struggle being away from family and friends as well as dealing with a different culture and atmosphere.
"My first year in Spain was pretty rough and tough. I didn't really know what to expect. For me, I grew up with Vasas in a club where we were all family. And going to an academy like Sevilla was a totally different situation," Somogyi said.
"I was trying to stay strong and try to consider every single day a challenge. I didn't really feel great there. I wasn't really playing as much as I expected … It was tough. I consider myself someone who loves the game of basketball more than anything. This situation will either kill a player's mind and their hopes and dreams or they make a player stronger. And I choose to be the second guy."
Somogyi after the season would sign with Madrid club Torrelodones and spend the next two years in Spain as well, playing in the LEB Silver third division in 2018-19.
"Definitely each and every year I learned a lot - either through mistakes or from coaches and the competitions," he said. "Those two years really made me a much better player than I could have expected before I went to Spain."
Dream of Spain for life-long basketballer
The teenager Somogyi was already living out his dream - playing in Spain.
"It was my dream when I was a little kid to play in Spain in the ACB," he said. "I think after the NBA and excluding the international leagues, the ACB is the second-best competition in the world. That is why it lit the fire in me. I was following a lot of great teams and players in the league. I liked the level and the intensity. That was definitely a different world of basketball for me growing up in Hungary."
Somogyi was born and raised in Budapest, which he says really didn't have much of a basketball culture, especially since the city even lacked a first division team.
"It was not every kid's dream in Budapest to become the best basketball player in Hungary or in the world. But for me it was a no-brainer because my father was a national team player and my sister played in EuroLeague Women and for the national team. I was born into this world," he said, referring to his father Laszlo Somogyi and sister Andrea Somogyi.
Adam's biggest player role model growing up was his compatriot Adam Hanga, who had already moved to Spain in 2011 with Manresa and joined Baskonia in 2013 before heading Barcelona in 2017.
"I was following his career from the beginning when I started watching basketball. He was already the best basketball player in Hungary when I started watching, David Vojvoda as well. I was following their games a lot," he said. "I also still watch the great European playmakers like (Nick) Calathes."
But when it came to inspiration, that came somebody else.
"From the NBA, Stephen Curry inspired me. That's why I wear number 30."
Hearing Hungarian national anthem at home "unforgettable"
While Curry and the number 30 have a special place in Somogyi's heart, so too does February 22, 2019. He was in Varese, Italy with the Hungarian national team in the final window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers. With 2:35 minutes left in a blowout game, Hungarian head coach Stojan Ivkovic called Somogyi's name and the 18-year-old made his senior national team debut.
"I was a little bit nervous but excited at the same time. It was a dream come true for me," said Somogyi, who collected 1 rebound and 1 assist. "Unfortunately it was a situation where Italy were leading by a lot, but it was still a dream come true. Every basketball player as a young kid dreams to play for their country. That was definitely an unforgettable experience for me."
Adam Somogyi in December 2018 - No. 12
That was actually the second window Somogyi was with the team as he was included on the game roster for Hungary's home game on December 2, 2018 against Netherlands in Budapest.
"I didn't play in the game but I was in the roster. That was the most amazing experience I have experienced with the national team - just getting into the gym and all the people in Hungary. All the people who I knew were there and I could finally not just cheer for the national team from the outside but was also part of it. To be with the guys it was unforgettable," he said of the 91-86 victory.
Somogyi played a bigger role in Hungary's FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Qualifiers game at Ukraine this past February, picking up 2 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists in 15 minutes.
"It felt great. I scored my first points as a senior national team player. Unfortunately we couldn't keep the game close. It was awesome playing alongside the best players in Hungary and compete with them. That was an important step in my life," he said of the 97-63 loss.
Teammates with the underrated star Perl
One of Somogyi's teammates for all three windows was Hungarian star point guard Zoltan Perl. The 26-year-old playmaker is also Somogyi's teammate at Falco, meaning he gets to learn from Perl on a day-in day-out basis.
"I think it's a blessing that I am able to play alongside him and learn from him on a daily basis. I think he's one of the most underrated players in all of European basketball," Somogyi said of Perl. "The guy is incredible - what he's capable of. I have been able to learn a lot from him as a guard: his moves, his finishing, his reading the game. He's got a huge basketball IQ and great skills as a slasher and playmaker."
BCL the reward of hard work
All those lessons learned from Perl are paying off as Somogyi is playing more and more of a role for Falco, who are 2-1 in Group D. He opened the season with 3 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal against AEK Athens and then picked up 5 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in the win at VEF Riga. In the third game, Somogyi collected 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 steals against Nutribullet Treviso.
"That's why I worked hard every single day in my life and every single day in the summer while other players were on vacation," he said. "I'm looking forward to helping the team however they want me to have Falco compete at the highest level and get as far as possible in the BCL and the domestic championship."
Of course, Somogyi will always also have his eye on Burgos in Group H - thinking about a showdown with them later in the season.
"(Laughs) We were talking about it with the guys from Burgos that hopefully we would meet during the season - which would mean both teams get far. I am looking forward to it," he said. "It would be nice to face those guys and show what we are capable of doing against a strong team and who we are."
According to the BCL Competition System, Somogyi actually has decent chances of getting his wish - if both teams can advance to the Round of 16. The winners of each Regular Season group moves directly to the last 16 with the second and third placed teams playing in best-of-three Play-Ins.
Falco and Burgos would meet in the Round of 16 group if they both win their groups. They could also match up in the Round of 16 if they both finish the same place in their respective group in the Regular Season and then prevail in the Play-Ins.
Regardless if Somogyi faces Burgos in the BCL, there is a future together that the two will eventually have to discuss, given the two-year option following the 2021-22 campaign.
"Of course everyone is planning things and trying to figure out the the plan and achieve goals. I am trying to first have Falco go as far as possible and perform the best they can. But it's also motivation for me to convince Burgos that I am a player they can count on for the future," he admitted. "It would put a chip on my shoulder and I would work so hard to get there every single day."
Sure, Adam Somogyi is with Falco Szombathely but there is still a part of his mind on Burgos.