Without a doubt, UDEA Algeciras is one of the youngest teams in the FEB Leagues. Founded in 2017, it contained the germ of a locality and an environment that was very fond of basketball, seeking to recall old times under the name of Ciudad de Algeciras.
The path began in the EBA League on 17/18, with Javier Malla who has been on the bench ever since. The team had a brilliant 18/19 season, dominating Group D and being promoted to LEB Plata for sporting merit after winning the Promotion Phase played at home. Settled in LEB Plata since the aforementioned promotion, the debut (19/20) was spectacular, finishing in fifth position in a campaign that was suspended due to the pandemic. Then, two seasons achieving meritorious permanence, with a project in which Miki Ortega stands out, a block of local players and some risky foreign reinforcements but who always turn out well, all accompanied by modest economic situations, being one of the most humble teams in the competition.
However, this summer Damex UDEA Algeciras has been one of the names on the market, with good renovations and the signing of high caliber players for the league such as Jon Ander Aramburu, Javi Marín and none other than Jere Vučica, a player who could to be in Gold being important to perfection. All this makes us wonder what is happening in Algeciras.
Perhaps the answer lies in the change in management that took place this past June, when Gibraltar international Sam Buxton, a former player at the club, became the new president. But beware, let no one think that this was a revolution, because the previous directive, which kept the team during these difficult times, is still in the new organization chart of the entity.
To find out more, there is nothing better than talking to Sam Buxton so that he can give us some insights into the new Udeist project. Buxton is the founder and CEO of Damex, a successful digital asset management company that has broken the €2 billion barrier in transactions since 2017 and that already began sponsoring the team last year, also organizing a few months ago powerful summer league in Gibraltar.
Basketball Zone – Sam, how are you? An interesting summer playing in a place as emblematic as Malta with the national team or going to Croatia, nothing less than to secure even more the signing of Vučica, who has also been a friend of yours since your stay in the United States. Leaving this aside, I imagine that you will be very happy with such a tough but satisfying summer after having convinced a player of the quality of Vučica to join the Damex UDEA Algeciras project.
Sam Buxton – Hello! First of all, I would like to thank you for this interview and the opportunity to explain a little more about the project we have in mind.
We are very happy with the team we have put together. Jere will be a key piece in the structure of the team, I’m sure. He is a player that I have also known for a long time and with whom I shared years at university. I am very happy to have him here, we are going to enjoy it a lot.
ZdB – Also, the team has undergone a big change. Not only have Miki Ortega or a great player like Issa Thiam been renewed, but also the return to the zone of a “top” point guard like Javi Marín or the signing of a decisive player at this level like Jon Ander Aramburu, who was even thinking of leaving our borders. How are they convinced? Is it an economic issue or is there something else in the form of a project?
SB – We have made a radical change, we want to be a professional club and we have proposed a very ambitious project. We want to be at the top, we come from very difficult years for the club and we want it to be a year to enjoy for ambitious things. The project that is offered for the present and future of the club is very interesting and that makes it more attractive for the players.
ZdB – Even the project has not stopped here and has brought in very interesting players like Pablo Córdoba or Alejandro Rodríguez. It is clear that a national profile has been sought that can break and surprise, right?
SB – We have looked for a block of national and European players because we understand that the adaptation will be faster. Even Issa and Pierre are players who have already been with us, in the case of the former, and know our game, and in the case of the latter, he comes from the Unicaja youth academy and already has experience in the league. We wanted to look for players who are quick to adapt, hungry and have experience in the league and we are very happy with the squad that has stayed.
ZdB – You have spent many years with Javier Malla close to your environment. Why do you see him as the ideal coach for this new stage of UDEA?
SB – Javier Malla has been the coach of Damex UDEA since the club was refounded, he has many years of experience in FEB Leagues, even when I didn’t even know what basketball was. He has promoted the team from the EBA League to LEB Plata and, in these years, having very difficult circumstances, he has always fulfilled the objectives set by the club. Also, he is from Algeciras; many things come together and that has made choosing the coach very easy.
ZdB – Personally, I get along very well with Miki Ortega and I share quite a few things about his philosophy. When I try to pull the tongue on very high targets, he tells me that this competition “is very bitchy” and many times the best teams do not raise. From the outside, I have the concept that your mentality is very winning. What goal do you set yourself this season for the team?
SB – I have known Miki for many years and both he and I want to always aim for the best. We want to win, always. It is true that the league is very complicated and there are many projects that do better than expected and others that do not, but our goal has to be to be as high as possible, enter the playoffs in a good position and try to reach the top possible in that playoff. As I said at the beginning, the objective of this project is not only the LEB Oro, but beyond, we want to excite people and ourselves and with that idea in mind we have set up this squad.
ZdB – We see that Damex has not stopped only in basketball and sponsors other sports. In fact, I have read that your idea is a medium-term project, with a more professional structure and even the idea of building a new pavilion. How do you see the harmony with local administrations and with other private investors to take UDEA further?
SB – We are also sponsors of Lincoln de Gibraltar, a team that has played the previous rounds of the Champions League. We also sponsor more events and teams and we have created the Damex Pro League this summer, which we also want to take to the next level in the following editions.
We want to reach the community through sport and we want to be creative, we have many ideas for the future and what better way to do them within our own pavilion. It is a project that we have already designed and that we intend to carry out. So far the response has been very positive, we want to move forward with great ambition but also with our feet on the ground, we want the Damex Arena to be something revolutionary for the area.
ZdB – The last one. Anyone who knows you in the world of basketball knows about your involvement and your love for UDEA, but many times we see strong “patrons” who get tired after 2-3 years. Can we say that Damex has come to make the UDEA grow progressively and steadily, without being a flash in the pan?
SB – I’ve been in basketball since I was very young, it’s been my life. Once I went to see a professional basketball game in the neighborhoods and that atmosphere made me think that I wanted to be a basketball player, that game changed my life and thanks to this sport I have been able to enjoy the life I have and be where I am today . Now is the time to create that feeling in many other children and, as long as I can, I will give everything so that this club reaches the highest possible level. I have come to stay.
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Sam Buxton and the metamorphosis of the Damex UDEA Algeciras