Vesely didn’t let the moment go to waste, as he applauded the fans right back, hopped up on the scorer’s table and boisterously pumped his fists. When fans mobbed the floor afterward, Vesely began jumping with them, and it wasn’t long before he was nearly disrobed, still gleefully bouncing around.
“That was the best moment,” Vesely said with a grin. “I really liked that.”
Vesely’s draft-day kiss with girlfriend Eva Kodouskova was an impromptu reaction to the Wizards choosing him sixth overall. But the response it elicited at Prudential Center, from viewers at home and from anyone who watched the replays on YouTube, was further evidence of the natural showmanship of the 21-year-old forward from the Czech Republic.
“He connects with the crowd so well,” Gist said in a telephone interview. “He’s a crowd favorite everywhere he goes.”
Only four years after he left his home to pursue a professional basketball career, Vesely will have an opportunity to win over fans in Washington, a city that he will visit for the first time this week.
The Wizards will formally introduce Vesely on Monday at Verizon Center, but the organization has been hoping to add him to the roster for some time. He could’ve entered the draft last year but opted to return for another season at Partizan that allowed him to mature into a greater role with more responsibility.
“I have to grow up mentally and work on my game,” said Vesely, who averaged 10.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in Adriatic league play and 9.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in Euroleague play last season. “I was one of the more important players on Partizan. Two years ago, I was a different player. I learn basketball. I learned almost everything else. I feel like that’s my home. The people they treated me like I’m from there.”
Vesely is just the third player born in the Czech Republic to play in the NBA, joining Jiri Welsch and George Zidek. “Basketball in my country is not so popular, but after this night, I think . . . I hope, that the basketball will be more popular,” Vesely said after the draft. “I will do my best to help that.”
The decision to take Vesely was practically unanimous within the basketball operations side of the organization, with the Wizards enamored with the freakishly athletic 6-foot-11 forward who runs the floor and attacks the rim as if ignited by a fuse. Vesely also has the charisma and confidence to respond to a question about being called the “European Blake Griffin” by calling the Los Angeles Clippers’ all-star and rookie of the year “the American Jan Vesely.”