Vesely, Satoransky and Team Czech Prepare for EuroBasket 2013 in Turkey
[Ed. Note: TAI's Czech correspondent, Lukas Kuba (@Luke_Mellow), provides an update on a couple Wizards who are still playing competitive basketball this summer, Jan Vesely and Tomas Satoransky. -Kyle W.]
The Czech Republic’s men’s national basketball team spent its third week of camp in the town of Decin, where the final leg of a three-week long preparation for the 2013 European Championship was held. The team spent almost the entire time in the local basketball gym, trying to master several offensive 5-on-5 systems, various types of zone defenses, fast-breaks, and shooting. The transition game will be key for the Czechs, because overall, the team has solid athleticism and speed compared to most of the competition. I’m hearing that the entire camp has been a positive success and that the team is anxious to begin the competitive games of the prep stage.
It goes without saying that Jan Vesely and Tomas Satoransky were, again, key targets of Czech media. Of course, there’s not much new to say after spending dozens of minutes answering the same old questions, but the duo did reveal a couple of interesting tidbits.
Satoransky (wearing Englewood-Murray Park T-shirt) got asked about Vesely’s one-on-one battles in the paint with a young, up-and-coming Czech player, the 7-foot-2 Ondrej Balvin (a one-time potentially #SoWizards draft pick). Satoransky spoke about Honza’s strengths and weaknesses while battling with such a hulking big man. Then, quipped with his trademark smile, Saty said: “I beat Honza and Balvin one-on-one every time; they play the semifinals.” (Otherwise, according to Satoransky, Vesely’s been in a “highly motivated” mode throughout the camp.)
Honza Vesely, who is “as crazy as anyone on the team,” according to teammate Jakub Houska, sat in front of the same camera for a video interview with Czech Basketmag. He conceded that after two unremarkable NBA seasons, he figured he’d need to add some more weapons to his game this summer, and says that he feels like he’s “a new player.”
Satoransky on his EuroBasket role: “I would like to be a floor general [for my teammates], execute our game plan, and give us the needed pace on the floor. Jiri Welsch helps me a lot, he plays point guard, too.”
On the 2013 Czech national team and other EuroBasket squads: “This is maybe the strongest Czech team in the last few years. The Spaniards are once again the favorites for the championship, but there will be a lot of tough opponents—I look forward playing in such games. I’ve never played against Spain, so I tremendously look forward playing in this game. [Note: The Czechs play their first official EuroBasket game against Slovenia on September 4 and are scheduled to play Spain on September 7.] I’m sure the basketball arena is going to be full and that Slovenian fans are going to create a great atmosphere in there. The final standings in our group will probably depend on how this game unfolds. Slovenia, together with Spain, are the favorites of our group.”
On wanting to play in the NBA: “It’s hard getting to the NBA and even harder staying there. Hopefully, one day I’ll come to Washington and sign a contract with the Wizards.”
On the Czech Basketball Player of the Year bragging rights: “Now I can make fun of Honza, which of course is important for me. (Laughs.) But otherwise, it’s nothing extraordinary. Honza had the misfortune of not playing much in the NBA, he didn’t have a good season. But I think the next one is gonna be better for him, he’s gonna get more playing time. [Note: this was before the Wizards officially signed Al Harrington.] I can’t really compare myself with him, the NBA is the best league in the world.”
On growing up in a volleyball-loving family: “My whole family plays volleyball, so there was pressure on me to play the sport like my relatives did. But I considered volleyball as awfully boring—I hope I didn’t offend any volleyball player. On the contrary, I loved basketball because there‘s always something happening on the court, there’s plenty of action out there.”
Worth mentioning: Jan disclosed that he had talk with Wizards summer league coaches Sam Cassell and Don Newman and that he was informed that the Wizards coaching staff would not try to make him a full-time center. But what about Jan’s role on the national team? Czech coach Pavel Budinsky fully appreciates Vesely’s qualities, but he doesn’t know what role he’s going to play just yet.
“He’s an exceptionally athletic player,” Budinsky said. “We’ll use him a lot in transition, both on the offensive and defensive end. Jan’s a versatile player, too. Defensively, we’ll use him at small forward, power forward and center, and at small forward and center offensively.”
Vesely on the Summer League: “My personal feeling is that I did well at the Summer League. I’m satisfied with how I played out there.”
On not taking the EuroBasket lightly: “I’m not gonna play at EuroBasket just to warm-up [for the NBA season].”
On the Czech national team: “We had fun at the Decin camp. We had to fine-tune the last things before flying to Turkey. I needed to come and fit right into the system the team plays, which I firmly believe we managed to do. We’ll see how it translates into games. I feel I like this team. In Slovenia, we are going to be considered as underdogs. Maybe this could be to our advantage—any games we win, it’ll be a success. We can play hard and beat teams that take us lightly. Our strength is athleticism and quickness, we have a lot of versatile players who can play more than one position; we can get stops on the defensive end and then run into fast-breaks. It’s super that our national team qualified for the European Championship after several years of not getting there.”
After the conclusion of camp, the team had two free days before boarding the flight to Istanbul, Turkey, last Wednesday afternoon for a pair of preparatory/exhibition games against Turkey.
Last Friday’s game between the Czech Republic and Turkey (Turkey won, 68-75; click here for highlights ) was the the first real game that Vesely and Satoransky played together in more than a year, dating back to the 2012 Summer League. The opponent: the proud Türkiye team with three current NBA players (Omer Asik of the Rockets, Ersan Ilyasova of the Bucks, Hedo Turkoglu of the Magic), one former NBA-er (Semih Erden), and the player whose draft rights are held by the Washington Wizards (Emir Preldzic) at the raucous Abdi Ipekci Arena. You could see this was the first prep game for the Czechs—they played a bit sloppy (20 turnovers), fouled a lot (27 personal fouls; the Turks went 29-for-36 from the charity stripe); and missed many free-throws (5-for-16).Vesely started as the Czech team’s center, oftentimes matching up with Turkey’s massive big men Oguz Savas and Asik. Therefore, Honza got into foul trouble—three fouls after two quarters—and got his fourth in the third minute of third quarter. (The 290-pound Savas clearly got the assignment of roughing Vesely up in the paint, but Jan pushed and banged valiantly with this oak of a man.) In 19 minutes of playing time, Vesely did his well-known aerial, “Dunking Ninja” stuff to the tune of 14 points (and four rebounds). One particular Vesely alley-oop dunk off a feed from his pal Saty was downright delicious—a reason why one would stay in to watch a friendly game on a warm August night. Vesely was impressive running out for easy buckets, too. Again, this part of his game is crucial for the Czech Republic … scoring easy baskets in transition. The Czech team’s strengths could also be their team play (18 assists on 29 field goals), offensive rebounding (15), pick-and-roll action, and their big, quick starting five. I mean big—every player is over 6-foot-6 (PG-Satoransky, SG-Welsch, SF-Pavel Pumprla, PF-Pavel Houska, C-Vesely).
Satoransky played a foul-free 31 minutes, amassing seven points, three rebounds, and five dimes. Even with Vesely on the team, Tomas is the MVP—without him, the Czech team quickly gets into disarray on offense. Tomas gave out several hoop treats for the fans, one of them being a beautiful behind-the-back bounce-pass in transition to a teammate for an and-1 bucket. After the first quarter, the Czechs led 27-18 and the score was tied at halftime (41-41). The Czechs once led 52-45, and even 55-53 at the end of the third, but then got stuck and really couldn’t buy a basket, reverting to one-on-one play and standing around. Their defense began to look sieve-like and the final dagger of sorts were Vesely’s missed free throws when down seven points with over two minutes left.
(Some of Turkey’s select numbers from the game’s box score: Asik 6 pointds, 6 rebounds; Ilyasova 10 points, 7 rebounds; Turkoglu 10 points; Preldzic 6 points, 2 assists.)
The next day, there’s was a second Czech Republic-Turkey game on the schedule, a behind-closed-doors scrimmage. There’s barely any info about this scrimmage, let alone the highlights (I even checked out some online Turkish newspapers … nothing!). What I know is A) the result: a 110-100 win for the Turks (an even game throughout); B) they played five 10-minute periods (it was 90-82 after regular FIBA’s 40 minutes of play); and C) the most basic box score numbers of NBA-related players: Vesely (6 points, 5 rebounds); Satoransky (8 points, 6 assists); Turkoglu (19 points); Asik (12 points); Ilyasova (7 points); and Preldzic (6 points, 4 rebounds).
What’s next: The Czech team now will head to Vilnius, Lithuania, for a four-team tournament featuring Lithuania, Russia, Finland, and the Czech Republic that starts on Wednesday. Stay tuned…
Thanks for reading this and enjoy the photogallery below… I’ll be back soon with another post on Vesely, Satoransky, and their hoops-filled summer adventure.