Tomas Satoransky Shines in Battle of Wizards Euro-Stash
[Editor’s Note: TAI Czech correspondent Lukas Kuba recently updated us on Wizards 2012 draft pick Tomas Satoransky and the Czech National team’s road to EuroBasket 2013. Through three games, the Czechs were 2-1 in Group F qualifying play — a win against Belarus, a loss to Italy, and a win against Portugal. On Monday, Satoransky and his teammates matched up against traditional power Turkey (also with a record of 2-1), featuring Semih Erden of the Cleveland Cavaliers and another Washington Wizards Euro-stash, Emir Preldzic.
Saty and the Czechs destroyed the Turks, 82-64. Tomas led all scorers with 16 points and added six rebounds, five assists (two turnovers), and five fouls-drawn to his stat line, and he only played 24 minutes. Preldzic chipped in 10 points, six assists, two turnovers, three rebounds, and three steals for Turkey in the loss. The Czech Republic will next face Belarus at home in Chomutov, CZE, and then will head to Trieste, Italy for a rematch with Italians on September 2. They will close out group play against Portugal on Sept. 5 and Turkey on Sept. 11.
Below, Lukas Kuba translates a July 2012 (before NBA summer league) Tomas Satoransky interview with Czech Basketmag titled, “Miracle No. 32.” -Kyle W.]
Tomas, tell me what were the immediate moments before Adam Silver announced the 32nd pick?
A few minutes before, I got a call from my Czech agent, Phillip Parun, and American agent, Jarin Akana, saying that maybe I’d be drafted soon, so I began to sense it. They already knew it [who would draft me] five, ten minutes before the announcement, but they didn’t tell me exactly. I was aware which team was on the clock, and I knew that I had a good workout in Washington, but I still didn’t want to believe it would happen… And on top of it, Honza [Jan] Vesely called me, but I didn’t pick up. He was in Washington and probably already knew it, but I called him back later.
What happenend on June 29th, 4:30 am [Central European Time] when you and your friends heard your name called at no. 32?
We all began to roar and celebrate, the mood was a great. Right after that I couldn’t even believe it… We arrived at the spot where we were watching the Draft at 11 pm, I was there with my girlfriend, too. We ate something, talked, we saw each other after a long time. And at the time of my draft, we all were lively again and stayed awake until morning. Then I was savoring the whole next day.
What it is like watching the Draft from across the ocean, when you’re not inside of the happening?
It had its charm. Of course, I wished I could be there and enjoy the atmosphere which I adored when I watched the Draft as a little kid. But again, it was cool as a spectator, to be a part of the celebration here with my relatives. Plus, with that cherry on the top at the end and a big surprise from the 32nd position.
Only players who were assumed to be selected in the top 14 picks were in Newark?
Everyone can come to the Draft from the players, so I could have been there, but it doesn’t have the same reflection [as being drafted higher]. And after the first round the players don’t go to shake hands with David Stern. So there are the expected first 20 guys present. And whomever is drafted unexpectedly in the first round, he’s simply not there. I was telling myself, if I’d go in the second round, I’d like to spent it with my family and friends. Moreover, I already was a whole month in America.
I’m asking this because then you couldn’t do the planned fancy kiss with your girlfriend…
I couldn’t, and in the second round it wouldn’t be so publicized. I enjoyed the kiss here at home. (laughs)
What did Honza Vesely tell you about what happened for him during the Draft? He even got a chance to have lunch with David Stern.
I asked him about some details, mainly if he knew ahead of time [that the Wizards would draft him], being in such a high spot (sixth overall). Of course he guessed a little, but he wasn’t sure with anything. I can confirm that—everything changes during a single day there. It’s not good to plan something.
So when and how do you introduce yourself to America and the Wizards fans?
Three days after the draft, my American agent called me. The plan was for me to arrive in the U.S. on July 8th and then compete in Summer League beginning on July 13. And I would like to show something there. The introductory press conference will happen when I officially sign a contract with the Wizards.
Who was the first one from your new team to call you after the Draft?
I talked with GM Ernie Grunfeld and owner Ted Leonsis. They wanted to congratulate me. They said that they are excited about drafting me. Then I talked to coach Randy Wittman, who said he is looking forward to coaching me. Nothing downright specific.
When you worked out for them, did the Wizards suggest that if they drafted you, they’d stash you in Europe another year?
We somewhat guessed it. We had similar statements from other teams, too, from the workouts and interviews I did with them. At my point guard position, I can still get a lot better in Europe and better prepare for the NBA. Washington then just confirmed that they would let me play in Europe [next season].
Describe the Wizards workout in more detail.
I went there from Cleveland, where I didn’t have as good of a workout as I had hoped. In Washington, in the morning I came to their training center, where they did various tests with me, like measuring of my physical parameters, but the difference from the other workouts was that they took just three guys [for a workout]. So the possibility to play 3-on-3 dropped out, and it was only about individual drills. I had a very successful workout there, and I was able to hang with Nos. 8 and 10 in the Draft, Terrence Ross and Austin Rivers. When we played 1-on-1 , sometimes they couldn’t stop me, so I surprised the Wizards people and maybe they started liking me. With Rivers, we had a 10-minute 1-on-1 drill, and it ended about 50/50. You could see he had a huge talent, but he didn’t show anything extra. His qualities are more visible in the 5-on-5 game. I tried to utilize my European knowledge and strengths, of which they didn’t know.
Did you have time to shoot the breeze with the NCAA stars at the workouts or at the Chicago pre-draft combine?
Yes, I did, but I didn’t have much to talk about with them. They knew each other from college and talked among themselves. Mostly they were talking about what’s going on in basketball, I spoke with them only here and there. Of course they were overtaken that I’m a 6-foot-7 point guard.
Are workouts the same everywhere?
More or less, yes. But it is up to the teams as to whether it’s more focused on 2-on-2, 3-on-3 games, or if they just let the players play free. Sometimes coaches want to have a bigger control over things, other times they let the players play how they wanna play.
How difficult is the “7” drill?
I did that drill only in Washington, it was the last drill of the workout. I got entangled there for about four minutes. The whole workout I shot great, but in the “7” drill I was at the point where I was very tired. That drill is about your ability to shoot well in a certain period of time, that’s the trick of it. But we all completed it.
[VIDEO: Watch Satoransky’s “7” Drill here.]
When were you pushed to the maximum, endurance-wise?
This was in Cleveland during the toughest drill of the whole workout. Players had to slide from one paint to the other, then he should stop a guy 1-on-1 and run on the other side of the 3-point arc where he defended five players 1-on-1 consecutively, and he had to get a stop five times or else he had to repeat the drill. So you could spent a good 15 minutes doing it, but you had to finish. It was demanding physically and mentally, especially when the first guy scored on you five consecutive times and you knew that there are additional four guys ready to go, and this is while you didn’t have much stamina left.
Also, you said that you played a game without fouls being called.
This depends on coaches a lot. In Golden State they didn’t blow the whistle even when the ball was out of bounds. They wanted to know how much the players want to play hard without stopping the game. They reasoned it that rookies never get calls in the NBA, so we had to be prepared.
Which people from the front office watch the workouts?
In Washington it was publicized thanks to the presence of lottery picks, Rivers and Ross. There was the whole front office including the GM watching it. They also recorded the workout on video. Every team has around twenty workouts before the Draft, it’s the nature of their job.
What did the Wizards people say at the end?
They didn’t show their cards. They just said what all teams say, that they liked it and that they would let me know. They didn’t even say anything confidential to my agent. That’s why I didn’t expect at all [that they’d draft me]. Only the Bucks and Pistons were more specific — they probably didn’t know about the interest of the Wizards. I think that if I were still free [when they picked in the Draft], these teams would have picked me.
How do you know when a team really wants you?
With Americans it’s often hard to know. I relied on personal feelings, plus from interviews I did with them. [Editor’s note: eight teams interviewed Satoransky: Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland, Miami, Houston, San Antonio, Washington, and Golden State.] When I did surprise some teams, they said in what areas I did improve, because they tracked me for quite a long time.
What do you think, how important for teams is the impression of player in workouts?
They have already scouted players a lot in advance. Then there are various personal tests, an interview. There are tens of questions exploring the player, how he works. There’s also an IQ test and it’s challenging enough. For me the hardest part was that questions repeat all the time. They put around 185 questions and the first 170 are there to get to know the personality of a player, then the last 15 questions are an IQ test.
What was the most uncomfortable question?
Well, one was quite rough. In Golden State they asked me when was the last time I got drunk. So I replied that when our season ended, I was in a good mood. (laughs)
What did your agent Jarin Akana take care of in America?
He knows how the NBA works. It is a strong agency and it’s a lot about professional environment, it’s not about making friends. The teams aren’t able to deceive him with some bogus compliments. It’s a lot about negotiating contracts, workouts, dealing with teams, plus the overall strategy of where to send me and where not to. It would be unnecessary to send me to teams that were drafting too high or too low, even if they had interest in me, but it would be impossible to draft me there anyway. Jarin simply did a great job. He’s experienced and is in charge of players from Europe who go to the Draft, so he looked after Ricky Rubio as well.
Still another question about the pre-draft camp in Chicago, which was around 60 players – how much did you help yourself by going there?
Not that much. Maybe just by that teams had interest to watch me, because I was a different type of point guard from the available point guards there. There wasn’t even that much of a chance to showcase myself. All the drills were very short, and you won’t find out if I’m a good shooter off 10 shots. It was just a basic presentation and obtaining further information for those NBA teams.
What was the most demanding part?
That I had to catch everything in one day, because then I went the Treviso camp [in Italy]. I was at the local hospital [doing all the tests] and handled everything in three hours, then I did the interviews with teams and workouts. I didn’t even have time to sleep much.
Did American players give Europeans cold shoulder or not?
I was there alone from Europe. For them, the only interesting thing was, namely, that I’m already paid money to play ball. That was the only thing they envied about me (laughs). They asked if there is good money in Europe or where you can make the most money. This more or less disappointed me, that these types of players only go for the money. Of course the NBA is their dream, but they mainly go for the money, because they don’t get any money in college and in some cases they are the only breadwinner of the whole family.
Now you’ll have to work hard on your physical parameters, what is the biggest thing you have to work at?
Probably I gotta gain more pounds. When you have more pounds in the 1-on-1 game, it’s to your advantage. I didn’t have a problem with that in Europe but in the NBA my actual weight wouldn’t be enough.
If you were drafted 40th overall or lower, you probably wouldn’t go play in the Summer League. So the Wizards are serious enough about you when they want you to play there, right?
This is just one of the reasons. Since the 32nd position is, although in the second round, quite high, they count on me to show up there. In the end, it’s just five days, which is not so bad. On the contrary, I had an agreement with the Bucks and Pistons that I would not go to the Summer League.
What if you played extremely well at the Summer League and the Wizards wanted you [to sign a contract] immediately, that can’t happen?
There’s a possibility, and that’s why it‘s worth it to participate in the Summer League. If I have a couple of great games and people from the Wizards front office like it, there’s always a free roster spot. It’s not that this year I wouldn’t have a chance at all. I don’t count on that much, but one never knows…
[Czech national team teammate] David Jelinek [played SL for Dallas Mavs] should be in the Summer League as well, that’s three Czechs with you, Vesely and him. Thanks to you guys, will a wave of stronger interest in the NBA come? Will young boys work harder in order to make it there like you three?
In our circumstances, there have never been so many Czech players in the NBA. Potentially even David can get there and everything together can cause an interest. Plus, lots of our friends will begin watching the NBA more. Basketball will be more publicized in the public and a lot of boys will see that you can approach that dream, and it’s worth it to play the game of basketball.
With your first pass in the Summer league, will you try to find Jan for an alley-oop?
(Laughs) Only if it would be in the flow of a game. But I’m sure I’ll know more about him than about other teammates and maybe there will be some collaboration. But first I gotta get used to the NBA style of play.
You’ve been dreaming about the NBA for a long time. To be on the same team with a friend, you couldn’t even possibly dream about such things. Can you comprehend that the team, one that never had a very good experience with Europeans, drafts two Czechs in consecutive Drafts? Moreover, still two quite unrefined players?
It’s a great bonus. I guess they probably drafted me because they had a great experience with Honza. We both play kind of an American style of basketball. We were always closer to them, playing athletic ball and, potentially, we were in a very good situation [to play there]. In the NBA, they work to develop this potential, and it‘s great that we could present it to the teams. The Wizards assume that our combination can work for them as well, and I hope we won’t disappoint them.
A lot of executives from German basketball Bundesliga wonder how can such a small country like the Czech Rep. can grow so many talented players. Do people in Spanish ACB league wonder too? Nowadays, there are more Czechs being drafted than Spaniards.
This results a lot from the class of 1990, 1991, where we played great in the youth competitions and everyone went away relatively soon to [play in] various European countries. They worked well with us there and then we went after our dreams. Now we have a very strong U-17 team, so hopefully someone from that squad makes it to the NBA.
In your big Draft day, a lot of good things happened for basketball in the Czech Republic. [Czech women’s NT qualified for the Olympic Games, Czech U17 team advanced to the quarterfinals of World Championship.] Now it’d be amazing if Czech National Team qualified for the Eurobasket 2013. Can you do it?
Just these things what now happened in Czech basketball are so awfully positive that it would be unbelievably great if we managed to do this, too. These moments show that Czech basketball is rising to the foreground and all of Europe has taken note, I think we have a great future. I hope that we could finally show that as well in the men’s category. We have a chance in this quite good and positive atmosphere.
Your new team has – to a certain extent – the fate of Czech national team in its hands this summer. Will they be against your participation in representing the country?
I think that it will not be a problem. I’ll play in the Summer League, which I think is my obligation toward the team that showed confidence in me. I’m 100 percent sure I’m going to be playing for Czech National Team this summer and this is just a little complication. I’m going to be with the National Team for the most important part of the summer. With Jan, we’ll see after the Summer League is over. He definitely wants to represent the country, he likes that group of guys. The lure of the Eurobasket is something incredible, because you don’t play ball only to shine with your pro team, but also to shine with your National Team, because it’s an honor.
From whom did you get the most interesting congratulations after being drafted? Did your old coaches, CB Seville’s Joan Plaza or USK Prague’s Ken Scalabroni, congratulate you?
There was a lot of beautiful congratulations, even from people of which I haven’t heard from in a long time. I didn’t get anything from Coach Plaza, nor did I expect anything. He has to figure out other problems now. And Coach Scalabroni called me just before the Draft, which made me awfully happy. He congratulated me more times than once, and I hope he’s very delighted that he coached someone who was drafted to the NBA.
Can being drafted to the NBA change your status in Seville, if you stay there? And what if Coach Plaza is let go?
Provided I’d have to continue playing in Europe, my first choice will be Seville, where I’d have the best situation for my departure to the NBA. I don’t want to begin anew with a new team. But what will happen with the coach, I don’t deal with it now. The team offered him a new contract, but the decision is up to him.
Are they glad in Seville that their player got drafted? On the other side, they lost a player…
You’ll have to ask them. I hope that yeah. There may be some negative reaction that they wanted me to play for them longer, but hopefully they take it positively. I think I’m the first player who got drafted directly from Seville.
One month before the Draft, you were flying all over America, came to Europe and back — you made a history in Czech sports and you’re more and more visible in the media. By now, do random people outside of the basketball community recognize you?
It’s no big deal, maybe it’s just a few people who follow hoops. Here it’s not like in Spain where basketball draws far more interest. But I have to admit that being an NBA draftee is something bigger, otherwise these things wouldn’t happen at all.
Your mate Vesely is already, we can tell, a sports celebrity. He came back from overseas and in no time he sat in the Jan Kraus Show and on the Frekvence 1 Radio show. The interest in him is growing. You, yourself, are a showman squared … is then the effect of the NBA really this substantial?
I don’t have to even say this, it’s logical. If Honza Vesely played for CEZ Basketball Nymburk or USK Prague instead, nobody would recognize him. This is 100 percent true. And me? When I become a real NBA player, I can answer it…
One last question, what are your goals in basketball?
I always put out a goal to try to be the most successful Czech NBA player ever. I hope that someday I achieve something that nobody in the NBA has achieved before.