Tomas Satoransky, Cajasol

Dec 16, 2010 by Javier Gancedo, Eurocupbasketball.com Print
Tomas Satoransky, Cajasol
Tomas Satoransky - CajasolIn his second year in Cajasol, tall playmaker Tomas Satoransky is showing everyone why he is considered one of the best young players around the continent. Well-known for his jumping skills, Satoransky has won Slam Dunk contests in the Czech Republic and Spain, but is much more than an athlete. Ambitious and hard-working, Satoransky is taking giant steps in his development in a club that has the right combination of playing time and patience - as well as a Eurocup-winning coach that believes in him. At age 19, Satoransky had to take the starting point guard role in Cajasol and is now trying to lead his team to the Eurocup Last 16 in a make-or-break road game against Hapoel Jerusalem. Far from being intimidating, Satoransky sees it as another challenge in his short, promising career. "It is a great opportunity for me. I need experience in difficult games like this and the more I play, the better I will get to read games," Satoransky told Eurocupbasketball.com. "My confidence is going up, too."

Born in Prague and raised at USK Praha - the same team that, as Slavia Prague, made it to the European Cup final in 1966 -, Satoransky joined the team at the early age of 9. He would play for USK in all youth cathegories, winning several youth championships in the Czech Republic and quickly became a star in the making, playing well ahead his age due to his court sense, athleticism and know-how. Satoransky reached USK's first team in the 2007-08 season, once he led his club's junior team to win the Czech League championship in 2007. Before that, in 2006, Satoransky played for the Czech under-16 national team at the Division B European Championships, helping his team to win the title.

Satoransky shocked everyone with his all-around skills at the 2007 European under-16 Championship played in Rethimnon, Greece. Despite playing point guard, Satoransky registered 5 double-doubles in 6 games. He averaged 15 points, a competition-best 12.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists in that tournament, enough for every basketball scout to underline his name from then on. Satoransky had a solid Czech League debut, earning more and more playing time as the 2007-08 season went on. Despite being 17, Satoransky scored in double digits in 7 of his last 14 games that season, but USK could not overcome Geofin Novy Jicin in the Quarterfinals. "It was not easy to go from youth to senior basketball, but my coach at USK believed in me a lot and allowed me to play with the first team to fulfil my potential," Satoransky said. His great upside allowed him to earn a spot in the European team at the Adidas Nations Experience 2008 in the United States. Before that, Satoransky was chosen as the European Division B Under-18 Championships MVP. Once again, Satoransky proved his versatility and leadership by averaging 16.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists in the tournament, which the Czech Republic finished second with the help of another top prospect, Jan Vesely.

Tomas Satoransky - Cajasol (Photo: ACB PHOTO)A lot of teams made moves to try to get Satoransky out of USK, but he was back in the team for the 2008-09 season. Satoransky was a full-time starter in the team and quickly delivered despite his young age. He averaged 9.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 38 Czech League games and had a lot of clubs following him. Cajasol was one of the many options he had in Spain, but even Euroleague clubs like Partizan - who wanted him to play alongside Vesely - were interested on him. He has already become the youngest player to join the Czech senior national team before the start of the 2008-09 season. Far from being intimidated, Satoransky had double-digit performances against teams like Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Hungary. Cajasol has been negotiating with USK for a long time and the chance to play in the Spanish League was to good to pass up. "It was our youth teams manager, Pablo Camacho, who found him and persuaded him to come to Sevilla to see him play. He started to negotiate and the club managed to seal the deal, also because we arrived before anyone else. It was a great move for us, in terms of recruiting," Cajasol assistant coach Diego Ocampo said.

Satoransky could not leave the club until he turned 18 in October 2009 but Cajasol agreed to wait until then to sign him. Cajasol has a similar philosophy than USK when it comes to young players and he thought he would have a better chance to shine in a mid-level Spanish League team than in a Euroleague powerhouse. Satoransky had already been in Seville in spring and attended several workouts with the team. He came in with the idea of playing for Cajasol's vinculated team Qalat, having the chance to join the first team whenever needed. "It was a little bit crazy, because I had a lot of options but I had already been to a tryout with Cajasol. I really liked this city and the club," Satoransky told us. "I talked to their young players and saw that there is good people here and very professional team. I talked to my agent and we agreed that it was the best option. I am very happy in Seville."

Coach Joan Plaza, however, was fully aware of his potential and decided not only to make him a full-time member of his team's roster, but agreed to give him playing time through thick and thin. It is not unusual to see Plaza or assistant coaches Zan Tabak and Ocampo giving him personalized orders, as the club keeps believing in him since Day 1 until now. "He knows what he wants and play to his maximum limit, whatever it finally is. His main goal is fulfil his potential and puts a lot of effort to do it. Tomas works well every day, even when he is a bit anxious to do thing right as soon as possible," Ocampo said. "Even when that makes him rush things in practices and games, I am sure he will have patience and learn to control it in the near future. It will not be a negative thing, but a very positive one," he added. "I have a great relationship with our coaching team. We work a lot together and have individual practices. Coach Plaza is giving young people the chance to play. He likes to speak with his players and gives chances to everyone if we work hard - which is very important for me."

Tomas Satoransky - CajasolOcampo, who lives next door to him and has worked hard with Satoransky in the last two years, knows him as a basketball player better than anyone else and his analysis could not be more accurate. "We decided to play him as backup point guard last season. He had to improve his athleticism, but managed to do it throughout the last couple of years. It was very important for us to work on his passing and ballhandling skills. A lot of teams double-teamed him last season, being a two-meter point guard. Being to able to dominate the ball and put it when you want is critical for a point guard. We are putting a special emphasis in this - as a point guard, he has to make his team play well and make his teammates better. We talk a lot to him to improve his game knowledge, what his team needs in defense and offense. We talk to him about it even during games, who to get involved and what tempo is required."

In the end, Satoransky took part in 27 Spanish League games last season and even started a couple of times. He helped Cajasol to have its best season in an entire decade, reaching the Spanish King's Cup quarterfinals and above all, the Spanish League playoffs for the first time since 2000. Satoransky had a stellar performance at the 2010 Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso and also shined at the European under-20 Championships in Croatia, averaging 15.8 points, 6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.6 steals. In other words, Satoransky is widely considered as one of the best European players of his generation. He has faced an even bigger challenge, as aside from seeing extended playing time by default, Earl Calloway's foot injury has allowed him to be Cajasol's starting point guard on regular basis. At age 19, Satoransky is averaging 7 points and 3 rebounds, but the club faces a do-or-die battle against Hapoel in Jerusalem next week. "I am playing 20 minutes per game and it is a great opportunity for me. I need experience in difficult games like this and the more I play, the better I will get to read games. My confidence is going up, too," Satoransky said.

Tomas is happy in Sevilla, protected by a club like Cajasol that really believes in him, giving him a lot of playing time in two strong competitions such as the Spanish League and the Eurocup. His best friend in the team is Joan Sastre - both players lived together last season and are neighbours this year, too. In fact, Sastre drives Satoransky to home games and practices, as Tomas is studying to get his driving license. "We have been together all the time, as we arrived to the club more or less at the same time. We were living together and he is my best friend here. We have the same age, which makes things easier. Joan is great guy, very different than me, very quiet. We complement each other very well," he said. "I love Seville and things are easier this season because I know everybody and what is going on. I love the weather, and it is a historical city like Prague", Satoransky added. As for his future, he knows he has to go step by step. "I am under contract with Cajasol and I don't want to think longer than that. I have a lot of work to do - and that's it. I want to give Cajasol the best and that is all I focus on right now."