EuroBasket Division B
|David Jelinek is at a club renowned for nurturing young talent and gets to play week in week out in Europe's top national league, the Spanish ACB|
By Jeff Taylor
One doesn't need to see David Jelinek in a game to know what he brings to the table for DKV Joventut Badalona or the Czech Republic.
The 20-year-old shows everyone when he stands outside the arc during warm-ups, catches pass after pass from teammates and buries one three-pointer after another.
He's got a lethal jump shot.
It's why Joventut are giving the youngster a chance to play big minutes this season in Europe's toughest league, the ACB.
Jelinek is also poetry in motion when he puts the ball on the floor and glides to the rim.
For Jelinek to become the player that Joventut and the Czech Republic need him to be, though, he needs to do something else.
"He has to focus on defense," Joventut coach Pepu Hernandez says, "because he's already a good player on offense.
"He can do a lot of things when he's on the court but sometimes, he is learning to handle both sides, defense and offense."
Jelinek nods his head in agreement when told of the coach's observation.
"I think so," he says.
"Really, because I have a good shot and can help the offense, but it's true I need to improve a little bit more on my defense."
Jelinek is being given time to find that balance on offense and defense.
Joventut is a club that gives young players time to develop.
|The 1.94m shooting guard was only able to play in two games for the Czech Republic at the U20 European Championship as he was sidelined by injury|
The most notable examples in recent times of players that developed at Joventut were Rudy Fernandez, Ricky Rubio, Pau Ribas, and Netherlands center Henk Norel.
The presence of Hernandez, highly regarded from his many years at Estudiantes and his time at the helm of Spain, whom he led to gold at the 2006 FIBA World Championship and silver at EuroBasket 2007, is giving Brno-born Jelinek a terrific opportunity to gain experience.
"At the beginning, I thought about this a lot," Jelinek says.
"He's the coach of Spain's (gold medal-winning) World Championship team.
"So I listen to him a lot and try to do what he tells me."
Hernandez has other youngsters in his team as well.
There is Pere Tomas, the Joventut captain who once shone for Spain at the U20 European Championship, and 18-year-old Montenegrin center Marko Todorovic.
While some teams, like Catalan rivals Regal Barcelona, possess star-studded rosters, Hernandez does not.
He has a much younger side, due in part to injuries to important players Carl English and Norel.
"Maybe we can be beaten in a game, but we have to keep working," he says.
"We have to keep working for the future.
"There are a lot of young players who need to work on both technical, and tactical.
"They have to build up their own personality on the court and we have to help them to be the best."
The people back home are monitoring Jelinek's progress.
It helps that they are able to watch him on a weekly basis since most of Joventut's games are shown online.
There is a hope in his homeland that he will be a national team star with Jan Vesely and Tomas Satoransky in the coming years.
The Czech Republic has EuroBasket Division B games coming up this summer against Slovakia, Switzerland and Cyprus.
"Of course, it's important for the national team that I'm here in Spain and playing," Jelinek says.
"It's good but for me, right now, I'm thinking only about right here and not about the national team.
"When it's that time, then I'll think about the national team. But right now, I'm thinking about Joventut."
So which player served as an inspiration for Jelinek?
He says it was former Real Madrid and current Cajasol Sevilla sharpshooter Louis Bullock.
"I tried to learn from him," he says.
As for his longer-term aims, Jelinek says: "Right now, I'm at the beginning and don't think about it much but in time, I'd like to play for the team that is the best in Europe and if I can, maybe in the NBA."
He is concentrating on the present.
"I'm trying to help the team as much as I can," he says.
Hernandez is trying to help him make strides.
"When he is focused on defense, maybe he is not the same kind of player looking for the rim, or taking it and shooting it," Hernandez says.
"But he will find a balance and for sure, he's going to be a good player."