BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Thomas Van Den Spiegel has called it a day on his basketball career|
Two-time Euroleague winner Thomas Van Den Spiegel, the most decorated Belgian player of the last two decades, has announced the end of his 18-year-long basketball career just a few days before turning 35.
The 2.14m center made his first appearance as a professional in the Belgian top flight with Okapi Aalstar at the age of 17.
He made his debut with the national team later that summer, when he averaged 14 points and 6.7 rebounds to help Belgium take fourth place at the 1996 European Championship for Junior Men.
Van Den Spiegel converted into a senior international the following year and became a pillar of the Belgian side for more than a decade.
The big man's only appearance in a Final Round of a EuroBasket tournament came in 2011, as Belgium qualified to the showcase event in Lithuania.
The Ghent-born center averaged 8.2 points and 4.2 rebounds but Belgium failed to advance to the Second Round.
The brightest moments in Van Den Spiegel's career came at a club level.
After winning a Player of the Year award and two domestic league and cup titles in Belgium with Oostende, he embarked in 2002 on a 10-year journey that would see him suit up for some of the most celebrated and historical European clubs.
He played in Italy for Fortitudo Bologna and Virtus Roma before making his biggest step in 2006, when he joined Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow and won his first Euroleague title under coach Ettore Messina.
CSKA defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 73-69 in the title game of the Final Four in Prague, with Van Den Spiegel averaging 4.8 points and 1.9 rebounds per-game.
The Belgian had a brief spell with Polish side Prokom Trefl Sopot the following season but returned to CSKA and played a role in the Russian club's second Euroleague title in three years, as they prevailed 91-77 again over Maccabi in the final.
When Messina was handed the reins of Real Madrid in 2008, Van Den Spiegel was one of the first players to join the roster.
He stayed in the Spanish capital for two years, although by that stage frequent injuries were already impeding him from playing with the frequency the Italian coach would have liked.
Van Den Spiegel returned to Belgium in 2011, ending his career back where it started at Oostende.