Jan Vesely, Tomas Satoransky and Czech Mates Train for EuroBasket 2013
[Ed. Note: TAI's Czech correspondent, Lukas Kuba (@Luke_Mellow), checks in with a report on the whereabouts of Jan Vesely and Tomas Satoransky as they prepare for EuroBasket 2013 with the Czech Republic National Team. -Kyle W.]
On July 22, with 45 days to go until EuroBasket 2013, the Czech Republic national team started the first phase of preparatory camp for next month’s EuroBasket tournament in Slovenia. Head Coach Pavel Budinsky gathered the squad of 12 players in the town of Trutnov, which lies in the Krkonose Mountains, with team captain, Petr Benda, and Jan Vesely joining them later to complete the 14-man squad. Click here for the full roster.
The team of course is headlined by Washington Wizards second-year player, Vesely, and 2012 draftee, Tomas Satoransky. “Honza” Vesely is listed at power forward, but Budinsky said he plans to use him as a part-time small forward. “For me personally, Honza Vesely is more of a small forward,” the coach said. Jan will likely end up being a small-ball center, too. Budinsky also opined that, with Vesely’s style of play, he can be useful as a pick-and-roll finishing center. The Czech coaching staff, which includes the head coach of the D-League’s Maine Red Claws, Mike Taylor, will have to trim the roster to 12 before EuroBasket. The captain, Benda, a starting center and a key player during last summer’s Qualification Round, will probably be the first man out due to inflammation of the ulnar tendon on his foot.
A total of seven prep games (all away games) are scheduled for the Czech team: two games versus Turkey, a four-team tourney in Vilnius (Russia, Finland, Lithuania), and two games against Belgium.
The Czech national team’s motto is “Rvi Se Jako Lev,” which means fight like a lion, and the Czech Lions’ first practices were focused on gaining physical fitness, weightlifting, and running in the gym (and outdoors, as well—up hills in the woods and on sand at the local public swimming pool). I’m sure that Vesely, who joined the team on the evening of August 1, regrets missing this hot fun in the sand… Tomas Satoransky, the Sand Gladiator? One day the team practiced at a local soccer pitch, doing various fitness drills and playing a spirited game of soccer (I heard Saty can really play). The second week of camp was more orthodox in its setting—basketball drills in the gym, going through team sets and some 5-on-5 scrimmaging.
Last Friday morning, with workouts in Los Angeles behind him, Vesely spoke to the Czech media from camp. Here are some select quotes:
On playing time during sophomore NBA season: “It was a little disappointing. Surely it could have been better on my part. But now I want to forget about it and just concentrate on the Czech national team and the EuroBasket. I believe that me playing in the EuroBasket, this experience’s going to help me in the next NBA season.”
On if he’s good enough for the NBA: “Whenever something like this gets into my head or when I don’t play as much as I’d like to, I say to myself that I put an awful lot of effort into getting there, so I can’t just pack it up now—I gotta work hard even harder. For me the clear priority is the NBA and I’ll do whatever it takes to stay there.”
On working out with his coach, Slovenian Mirsad Alilovic: “I have requested having him. He looked at a couple of our games and then on the basis of it prepared my summer workout plan consisting of things which I need to improve in order to play better and have more impact on the floor—mainly drives to the basket from the high post, back-to-the-basket drills, ball-handling, and jump shots.
“I’ve been working out really hard for two months. It was a drudgery but it was actually good, I gained confidence. It gave me a lot of positives. The NBA Summer League helped me to try it out competitive games and I really felt better out there.”
On national team participation: “I’ve been looking forward to seeing the [Czech national team] guys again. Surely I don’t intend to act like I’m a star player who came from the NBA. I’m here for one reason just like any other player: to do everything I can for the national team in order to achieve some success at the EuroBasket. There are more experienced guys here like [Lubos] Barton or [Jiri] Welsch, so I’ll want to listen to their advice. For example, Jirka Welsch played in the NBA, he’s an experienced player, when he gives me some advice it’s only a plus for me.”
On position, small forward/power forward: “There’s a bigger chance for running into fastbreaks, which we wanna rely upon. Although I played a center for our Summer League team, that was mainly because there weren’t a lot of centers on our roster.”
On the fourth year option of his rookie deal: “It’s going to be dealt with during [Wizards] training camp. I don’t wanna think about it now. I got only the national team in my head now, on which I was looking forward to. A lot of NBA players renounced their participation [at EuroBasket] due to health issues, fatigue or lack of motivation. But I wanted to go, I got no injury and I’m ready to go. I knew from the beginning that I’d play for the national team this summer, I’m going to enjoy it, playing with another bunch of teammates, a different style of basketball. Even the Wizards’ front office was glad that I would play in competitive games, that it’d be a good follow up on the Summer League games.
On EuroBasket being held in Slovenia: “Slovenia was the first [foreign] country where I left [from the Czech Rep.], so I’m looking forward on being there next month, I got lots of friends there, similarly like in Serbia.”
This article even states that, in February, Vesely admitted that last summer maybe he didn’t work hard enough, but this year he learned from it and definitely worked harder, relentlessly hard. Jan Vesely even introduced the Jan Vesely Summer Training YouTube video.
August 2 was also the official Media Day for the national team. Players took part in photo sessions, etc., and here’s a short video if you are interested in what coach Taylor had to say about Jan joining the national squad:
One interesting subplot of the camp: Vesely wearing jersey No. 41 (which I tweeted a picture of). If you don’t follow me on Twitter and are asking why … make no mistake, Honza chose the number because of Dirk Nowitzki, his favorite player growing up. (Of course, No. 41 was also Wes Unseld’s number and is retired by the Washington franchise.) One Czech sports site even ran an article suggesting that Jan’s basically the second coming of Nowitzki, and that Jan’s personal coach, Mirsad Alilovic, has the magic touch of Dirk’s legendary mentor/coach Holger Geschwindner. Well, it would be amazing for the Wizards if it could come true, right?
After the Trutnov camp, the Czech team moved to Decin, a town located in northwestern Bohemia, for more two-a-day training sessions. But first, the team had to make a small trip to Prague for the “Czech Basketball Player of the Year” announcement and gala. It wasn’t much of a surprise to me, but Tomas Satoransky won the award. Saty on winning: “It’s always a good feeling to beat Honza Vesely.”
What was a bit shocking for some people was that Vesely, an NBA player, finished outside of the top 3 and in the fourth place (with Czech teammates Benda and Pavel Pumprla second and third, respectively). I noticed Honza himself was a little stunned when he heard the results. Satoransky, as the CBPoY winner, was naturally a target of media attention. I translated several intriguing quotes from Saty:
“I appreciate this [Czech Basketball Player of the Year] award, because being the best in my sport in the Czech Rep. means that I do it well.”
“I hope that I’m an NBA player in a year. I have to stay confident. That‘s the key to the NBA, without faith in yourself and confidence I won’t get there.”
“At the moment it looks like I’ll continue playing in Seville.”
“Now I’m fully focusing on the Czech national team. That’s the most important [thing] during summer and nothing else interests me now.”
“On the paper, when you look at other teams [in our group], we should be fighting with Poland and Georgia for the right to advance [out of the group]. They have strong rosters too, but we’ll go to the EuroBasket with the goal of advancing, and we’ll do everything in order to not go home after the group stage.”
That’s it for my first blog post on Vesely, Satoransky, and the Czech national team this summer… and I hope you enjoy this series of photos from Czech national team prep camp and CBPoY gala [photo credits: Czech Basketball Federation, plus my Facebook friends Jakub Houska and Mike Taylor]: