Mr. Veselý goes to Washington
Wizards select star 20-year-old with 6th pick in the NBA draft
Posted: June 29, 2011
Jan Veselý is only the third Czech to have been drafted into the NBA.
He came, he kissed, he conquered.
Basketball player Jan Veselý made history June 23, becoming the highest-picked Czech in the NBA draft when the Washington Wizards chose him as the No. 6 overall pick. He is only the third Czech to have been drafted by an NBA team.
Moreover, Veselý probably provided the most memorable moment of this year's draft. After NBA Commissioner David Stern announced the Washington Wizards' selection of the 6'11" forward, Veselý planted a kiss on his girlfriend before going up to the stage. The moment of affection was immediately appreciated not only by the crowd, but also by analysts and reporters.
"I don't care if he never scores a point in DC. Jan Veselý making out with his lady after being picked means I'm a fan for life," wrote CSN's Michael Jenkins.
While Veselý has already turned heads during the draft, experts predict his on-the-court play will also prove eye-catching.
"He's not a typical European player. He's quite dynamic. If he works on his shooting, he could become a regular member of the NBA All-Star team," said retired NBA veteran Vlade Divac of Serbia, a manager in the Partizan Belgrade basketball organization with which Veselý played for the past two seasons.
Veselý, who likes entertaining fans with slam dunks, named Dirk Nowitzki as his hero and said playing in the NBA has always been his dream. However, despite Veselý's eligibility to enter the draft as early as last year, the 20-year-old held off.
"Playing in the NBA has been my dream since I started playing basketball," he said last year. "But, to be ready for this, I feel now is the time for me to continue to work hard to materialize that dream in the future."
Partizan Coach Dušan Vujošević, a crucial figure in Veselý's career, recommended he stick around another season.
It was Vujošević, in fact, who discovered Veselý's potential. Veselý, whose father was a first-division basketball player and mother a volleyballer, took up basketball at age 12. By 16, he had joined Slovenia's Slovan Ljubljana.
"He was rather struggling in the first season, but Vujošević spotted him in his second season in Ljubljana and took him to Belgrade," Jan Veselý Sr. recalled.
Under Vujošević, Veselý grew into one of Partizan Belgrade's leading players. Last season, he was a key man in Partizan's lineup, and FIBA named him the best junior player in Europe.
Veselý said last year's decision to stay in Belgrade another season should help him become more than a mere bench warmer in the NBA.
"If I had rushed to join the NBA, it could well happen that I would soon have to move back to Europe. And I wanted to avoid that," he said.
He also wanted to be picked by a team in which he would not be forced to compete against a star player. In Washington, he'll play alongside last season's No. 1 draft pick, point guard John Wall.
"I like the way John performs," Veselý said. "Hopefully, I'll fit next to him."
Veselý acts confident, but still admits to having a healthy respect for the NBA players he will soon square off against.
"When I was recently watching the NBA finals, I realized that I could soon compete against those stars," he said. "It was quite thrilling."
František Bouc can be reached at
Tags: jan vesely, basketball, nba, draft, washington wizards, czech sports, czech.