The eyes of the international basketball community will be on the Czech Republic later this year when the country hosts the FIBA World Championship for Women.
The men's game is creating a stir in the country, too, thanks to CEZ Nymburk, an ambitious club side that has competed in Europe for the past several years.
In a major development for the sport in the country, Nymburk have also gained entry to the Adriatic League.
Not only will the Czech giants compete in the Eurocup for a fourth straight year, they will bring some of the most famous basketball clubs in Europe like Partizan Belgrade and Cibona to Pardubice.
Former NBA and Euroleague center Jiri Zidek, a vice president of the Czech Basketball Federation, is a Nymburk club spokesman and he talked to Basketball World News about bringing Balkan hoops to his country.
Jiri, Nymburk have played in European competitions for several years, including the FIBA Europe Regional Challenge Cup, the FIBA Europe League, the FIBA EuroCup and the Eurocup. How has this benefitted the club, and what has it meant to the country?
Jiri Zidek: We have proven to ourselves and the sports public in the Czech Republic that there is space and hunger for quality basketball in the Czech Republic. Even though we are playing in Pardubice, a city 60km from Nymburk, we have been able to attract large crowds to our games, managing to set a record for the number of spectators with 10,640 during the CEZ Nymburk v Turow Zgorzelec game. All of our games over three years have been very competitive from beginning to end.
Have the fans in Nymburk embraced the European games, and will they be eager to watch teams like Partizan Belgrade and Cibona in the Adriatic League?
Jiri Zidek: We think that joining the Adriatic League is a step in the right direction. It's another effort to bring quality basketball to the Czech Republic. The former Yugoslavia is a hotbed of European basketball talent. The Adriatic League should appeal to our fans in the same way as the Eurocup with only one important difference - guaranteed 13 home games. Of course, with (Czech international) Jan Vesely not declaring himself eligible for the NBA Draft and staying with Partizan for another year, our game against Partizan should be a special event for Czech basketball.
Will all the games be televised?
Jiri Zidek: The Adriatic League is sole owner of TV rights for the competition. The league is in contact with Czech TV and it's believed that the majority of our games will be televised.
Will the club's budget have to increase substantially to strengthen the team, and to fund the additional travelling outside the country?
Jiri Zidek: We will try our best to increase our budget for next season even in the light of very difficult economic conditions that exist at the moment. The invitation to play in the Adriatic League is an honor but also a responsibility at the same time, therefore we must do our best to build a competitive team.
Does adding the Adriatic League games make it more attractive for players to come to Nymburk?
Jiri Zidek: Yes, I definitely think that in eyes of players and agents especially, the credibility of Nymburk should be on the way up. The Adriatic League is a high quality competition that is closely watched in the whole of Europe.
Does the Czech league benefit overall by this, with Nymburk being allowed to skip part of the regular season? How does this work?
Jiri Zidek: With the quality of basketball that will be coming to the Czech Republic, we believe that the basketball overall in our country will benefit from us playing in the Adriatic League. The Czech league will not suffer because we will play the second stage of the MNBL when the league is split into the top six teams and bottom seven teams. We will join the top five teams after 22 rounds and play a total of 10 games against them that will determine the positioning for the play-offs. This way, we will play against six teams from the Czech league in a season and therefore will not lose contact with the domestic competition.