|21 March 2014|
By Dimitris Kontos
|Tomás Satoransky, seen here representing the Czech Republic, has been a leader on a young Cajasol Sevilla team this season |
The only thing that Czech international Tomas Satoransky, with his outgoing personality, and esoteric early 20th century writer Franz Kafka have in common, is that they were both born in Prague.
But much like salesman Gregor Samsa, the hero of Kafka's 1915 novel 'The Metamorphosis', the 22-year-old Satoranksy is undergoing a spectacular transformation.
In the case of the 2.01m playmaker however, it is not inexplicable and it certainly did not occur suddenly one morning.
Rather than mysteriously turning into a hideous creature, like Samsa, Satoranksy has evolved in the last year or so from someone considered mainly as an athletic, blazingly fast point guard who fed the highlight reel of the week with spectacular plays, into a leader of men.
Young men, to be sure, as his Cajasol Sevilla side are one of the youngest sides in the history of the Spanish ACB and the average age of their roster is that of their Czech leader - 22.
But with Satoransky staying on the floor for an iron-man like 31 minutes, scoring 12.8 points, dishing out 4.3 assists, stealing 1.4 balls, drawing 4.6 fouls and averaging an efficiency index rating of 16.4 per game, the Andalusian side have overcome a 0-3 start to their Liga Endesa campaign and currently occupy a play-off spot with a 12-11 record.
THE CZECH STATESMAN
|Ronen Ginzburg will be responsible for the Czech Republic in this year's EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualification Round|
Off the floor, Satoransky has added the air of a confident statesman to his good-natured smile and friendly disposition and is, at this young age, a spokesman not only for his club but for Czech basketball in its entirety.
He is now probably the go-to person to discuss all things concerning the present and future of the national team, such as the recent change at the helm.
Last December, Ronen Ginzburg took over from Pavel Budinsky as the head coach of the Czech Republic.
"I think it was a logical step for our national team to hire a new coach because it's kind of the style nowadays to have a foreign coach with good experience of European basketball," Satoransky told fibaeurope.com.
"He [Ginzburg] also knows Czech basketball quite well because he has been coaching at Nymburk.
"So I think the basis for the future is positive.
"He's been keeping in contact with us [the players], we have been talking and we'll see how it turns out."
Will the Czech Republic stay faithful to their relentless transition game, despite the change on the bench?
"I am not sure," Satoransky, who excels at that style, replied.
"I think that this kind of game is our strength, that's obvious.
"But [in order] to be successful we need to also add more set-up offence, more plays and more systems for the big guys to this transition.
"That variety is going to give us more options to win games."
|The Czech Republic will meet familiar foes Georgia in the 2nd Qualification Round|
The Czechs did not win as many games as they would have liked last time around, at EuroBasket 2013, as they finished at 2-3 in First Round Group A and failed to advance.
One would be hard-pressed though to find a single spectator at Celje Arena who did not consider that watching the fast-paced Czech game powered by Satoransky and Jan Vesely was more than worth the price of admission.
"If you see our results they show that we didn't qualify, so you cannot say they were good results," Satoransky said.
"But actually, the way that we competed in those games left us with a good taste in the mouth.
"We competed all the time, we played as equals against Slovenia in the first game and gave them trouble.
"Against Spain we didn't have big chances but we tried to fight all we could.
"It was a great experience not just for me personally but for the whole team.
"Playing in the a big tournament with big stars is what we wanted to do as a young team.
"Since the start of qualification we were hoping to play on the big stage and participating there was the experience we were expecting."
Satoransky is to lead the Czechs in their next challenge that lies ahead in the summer.
The Czech Republic were drawn in EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round Group E together with Portugal, Hungary and old foes Georgia, who the Czechs defeated in Slovenia last September.
"I think the group is not bad, meaning that we could have worse [opponents]," Satoransky commented.
"We have some teams that we know quite well, like Georgia and Portugal.
"Even Hungary we played against recently, I think three years ago.
"They are tough opponents who can give us trouble and the key for us will be the home games.
"We have to win all of those and then get some good results away.
"In Georgia especially it's going to be really difficult."
LIFE IS ELSEWHERE?
Before or during the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualification Round, which tips off in August, Satoransky will most likely have to take an important career decision.
After five wonderful seasons at Cajasol, he is closely followed by Euroleague clubs as well as being monitored by the NBA and needs to decide if he will extend his stay in Seville or if his 'Life Is Elsewhere', as another Czech novelist, Milan Kundera, would put it.
He has already been asked hundreds of times lately which one it's going to be.
"To be honest, I am finishing my contract [with Sevilla] at the end of this season and I am going to let this decision for a little bit further [down the road]," Satoransky replied.
"I think there is still time to think about this.
"I want to have more open space and time to make the better choice for the future, so I will still wait."
RIGAUDEAU 2.0 - AND STILL FUNNY
|At 2.00 metres, Satoransky is a guard built in the same mould as former French general Antoine Rigaudeau |
Czech and European fans should really hope that, whatever Satoransky's eventual choice might be, it will enable him to complete the transformation and fulfil his enormous potential.
By honing his leadership skills and tactical awareness and improving his long-range shooting, he is increasingly resembling a 21st-century version of pioneering European two metre-tall floor generals like Antoine Rigaudeau, Dejan Bodiroga or Theo Papaloukas.
Regardless of the next steps in his career, it is unlikely that the young Czech will lose his appetite for good-natured banter and abolish the title of chief-prankster in the team.
In a previous interview he smiled widely as he recounted that two usual recipients of his witty lines are veterans Lubos Barton and Jiri Welsch, both of whom Satoransky calls 'dědek' - 'old man' in English.
Satoransky gasps and his eyes widen in disbelief when he hears what Barton told fibaeurope.com about the duo's traditional one-on-one before each Czech national team practice.
"He really told you that he beats me every time?" he asks back in smile.
And then the urge to keep the banter going, like a mischievous child, kicks in.
"Well, the truth is that at the beginning he did beat me a couple of times.
"And I was surprised!
"So after that...I've just destroyed him every time."