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Matt Thomas isn’t going to stir up press conference memories of Allen Iverson with complaints about practice when talking about the basketball move he is making.

Thomas, an Onalaska High School and Iowa State University graduate, loves to practice. In fact, he regularly practices after practice.

But after a season with one Spanish League team — Obradoiro based in Santiago de Compostela — Thomas has signed a two-year contract with a different team in the same league for a new opportunity.

“It was hard playing one game a week, which is what we did last year,” Thomas, who signed with Valencia Basket on Wednesday, said last month. “I want to find a team that plays (FIBA) EuroCup because it would get me more games.

“I want to play more games.”

Valencia is one of those teams, and Thomas will take a strong first-year performance from a non-qualifying team that was 14-20 and 12th in the 18-team Liga Endesa to a EuroCup qualifier that went 22-12 and placed fourth.

The top teams in each league qualify to play in the EuroCup while competing in their home league, and Valencia has played for the EuroCup championship — the format is currently a best-of-three series — five times and won it three times (2003, 2010, 2014). No team has won more titles or appeared in more championship games or series.

“I thought this was the best opportunity for me,” Thomas said Wednesday from one of his camps in Indianola, Iowa. “There were some other teams that showed interest, but I liked the opportunity in Valencia to continue to get better.”

Thomas, a 6-foot-4 guard, averaged a team-high 15.4 points per game for Obradoiro, which played its 34 games during a 39-week span. He shot 45.9 percent (72-for-157) from the 3-point line, 47.2 percent (153-for-324) overall and 94.4 percent (85-for-90) from the free-throw line.

Thomas, whose camp swing makes its way to Onalaska on July 30-31, also averaged 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists while averaging 26.5 minutes and playing 30 of Obradoiro’s 34 games.

He signed a new contract with Obradoiro after last season began, but the presence of a buyout made a move possible. Valencia paid Obradoiro a buyout of roughly $70,000 for the rights to Thomas according to sportando.com, which covers worldwide basketball news.

Valencia is positioned on the eastern side of the country and off the Mediterranean Sea. Santiago de Compostela, on the northwestern part, is about 30 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. Approximately 600 miles separate the two.

He said his first season in Spain was an enjoyable one and expressed the desire to remain in the country for at least another year. The contract he signed Wednesday shows he may stay longer.

“I like the league,” said Thomas, who helped the Onalaska Hilltoppers to two WIAA Division 2 state tournaments and one title before playing in four NCAA tournaments with the Cyclones. “The league is great and extremely competitive. The style of play also really suits my game.

“There is a lot of player and ball movement. Everyone knows how to play the game so well, and I learned a lot.”

KOENIG FUTURE BEING DETERMINED: Aquinas and University of Wisconsin graduate Bronson Koenig is still sorting out the next step after playing for the Grand Rapids Drive of the G League this past season.

Koenig averaged 9.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 40.5 percent from the 3-point line for the Drive. He played in 47 games, averaged 21.2 minutes per game and is considering options both in the United States and in European leagues.

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Assistant Sports Editor

Todd Sommerfeldt has covered sports for the La Crosse Tribune since 2003 after doing the same previously in the Fox Cities and Rock County.

(1) comment

Buggs Raplin

Just watched some video of Matt in action in Spain. Very impressive. Hope he gets to the NBA, after Spain.

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