|21 July 2005|
Maurice Whitfield hopes to bring the benefits of an American attitude to a European team when he represents the Czech Republic for the first time this summer.
The 32-year-old from Philadelphia, who is married to a Czech woman and received Czech citizenship in February, will become the first black player to play for the Czech Republic in the forthcoming additional qualifying tournament for the EuroBasket in September.
Whitfield, who helped Nymburk to a second successive championship last season and also into the play-offs of the FIBA EuroCup, thinks his self confidence and a winning mentality can help his adopted homeland qualify for the tournament in Serbia & Montenegro.
"Nobody wants to be more than a team and a team is important in the USA," Whitfield said.
"But in America one player can say 'I won that game'. That is the American mentality.
"Somebody simply shoots more and every team needs a player like that. We have them in Nymburk as well.
"I believe in myself and I believe that our team can win every game. I try to teach that to other Nymburk players."
The 1.86m shooting guard was immense with Nymburk, averaging 16.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists in 14 European games.
That kind of production would be welcomed by the Czech national side as they attempt to finish above Estonia and Poland in Group A of the additional qualifying tournament.
Should they do so they would face the winners of Groups B and C and the team that ends up on top of that second phase takes the final place for the EuroBasket.
To be granted citizenship in the Czech Republic, Whitfield says he had to pass an exam that was as tough as any challenge he has ever faced on the basketball court.
"I had to read an article from the news and explain it after that. I need to learn more Czech vocabulary," the law graduate added.
"I go to school on Tuesday and Thursday to learn Czech. It could be much better when I can spend more time there but I have to go to training during the season."
The Czech team will begin preparations this month and Whitfield is confident that his new side can hit their best form and qualify for the EuroBasket.
"I think that we have a chance to play in the European Championship. I hope so," he said.