|The contribution of role players like veteran Jiri Welsch will be crucial for the Czech team |
A CASE OF BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
If Czech Republic were to choose an official song for their national team at EuroBasket 2013 there is no doubt they would go for the famous Queen song "Bohemian Rhapsody."
But do not be fooled by the word Bohemian and its obvious association with the Czech lands, that is not why they would pick it. As it is the case with this unique song that has no chorus, a similar pattern applies to this Czech team, or Czech basketball for that matter: there is no standard style of play or a player with a fixed role...
That of course is not a bad thing in a team sport like basketball. Coach Pavel Budinsky should actually consider himself lucky that he can rely on different options and an array of versatile, athletic players to deliver the goods on any given day - a group which also happens to be the exact same group of players (with the addition of Jan Vesely and Pavel Houska) that qualified the team to EuroBasket.
Arguably, in Slovenia the eyes of the media will be on Vesely, Czech basketball's only current NBA export, a very talented, athletic forward, who can play any position from "3" to "5", who made his name in Serbia, with Partizan Belgrade and he is still loved there.
Vesely, is coming off a frustrating season with the Washington Wizards and while he will be looking to make amends for that in Slovenia, the supporting role of a number of other versatile players in the team is expected to be more than crucial if the Czechs are to go beyond the Celje part.
That role will fall mainly on the shoulders of Tomas Satoransky, who is also drafted by Vesely's Washington, David Jelinek of Laboral Kutxa and the veterans Jiri Welsch and Lubos Barton. There is also Pavel Houska, a twice MVP of the domestic Mattoni NBL.
In Budinsky's own words his team is set to play basketball "in the right direction" and make their opponents fight for every point.
"Being the outsider on paper always helps," explains the coach who thinks that having no expectations other than showing the world that Czechs can play ball at this level can be beneficial for the psychology of his team.
As things are the Czechs are happy to just be here - remember, this is only their third appearance in 14 years and, after two shock wins over Lithuania and Greece in their opening games in 1999 they have now gone on to lose their preceding seven appearances on Europe's biggest stage.
But there is a concealed optimism if not determination in the players' camp that the team can actually go far in this Championship.
"I personally always like to surprise [others]. Last time out [at EuroBasket 2007] we took [Dirk] Nowitzki's Germany to overtime; we were only a small step away from winning that game," big man Jakub Houska was quoted by the media.
And Nowitzki is not around anymore...