Superhero Satoransky goes from 'ruled out' to 'ruling the country' in two weeks
PRAGUE (Czech Republic) - Any man's finest hour, his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear, is that moment when he has to work his heart out in a good cause and he's exhausted on the field of battle, victorious.
The premise dished out by one of the greatest sports coaches of all time Vince Lombardi came to life once more in Prague in September of 2022. Tomas Satoransky, after sacrificing everything to play through injury in front of his family, friends and fans, worked his heart out for a good cause and could finally welcome his finest hour victorious when Czech Republic defeated Israel 88-77 to advance to the Round of 16.
Just a couple of weeks ago, he was ruled out of FIBA EuroBasket. Just 10 days ago, a glimpse of hope appeared that the injured ankle could be okay before the end of the event. Just a week ago, he started practicing. And somehow, while being at 40-50 percent of his full potential, Satoransky fought off the pain to finish with 14 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds.
"I spent 40-45 years in basketball. I never saw a player that wants to play with this kind of an injury. Majority of players would say: 'Thank you, we did our best.' He didn't give up. If you saw his ankle, you'd understand," coach Ronen Ginzburg was more than proud, with Vojtech Hruban sitting right next to him, gesturing in confirmation that the swollen ankle is not for everyone's eyes.
"It's also an example for kids, for other players, how professional players should act. What he brings to the team is more than points and more than assists. Barcelona will understand it," coach added.
"It's underappreciated what he's done in this tournament. He was in and out of the team, he did a lot of the stuff, he paid for a lot of stuff to get back on the court, and it shows his heart and how much he wants to play for this team. It was incredible. How he treated that, how he was always positive, how he wanted to help even when he knew he was going to jump on one foot. To have him back, especially today... I don't have a hat but..." Hruban said, imitating the hats-off move for Satoransky.
Hruban had a team-high 25 points off the bench, getting a number of good looks from deep, and just like the Basketball Champions League all-time leading scorer that he is, knocking them down. He wasn't the only recipient of Tomas' fast balls and no-look passes.
Satoransky and Vesely will be reunited on club level in Barcelona, too
"It's really unbelievable what he's done, and how he managed to get to this tournament. It was a smart choice to rest him for two games, we gave him a bit more time to heal, but today... Man, he was incredible," Jan Vesely was in awe after scoring 16 points.
"It's always good for me when Tomas is playing. Hey, more open shots and layups for me!"
Satoransky now has four games with more than 10 assists in his FIBA EuroBasket career. That's the most by any player since the assists became a part of the boxscore in FIBA competitions back in 1995. He continued with the unselfish moves after the game, too, praising his teammates and the 12,000-strong crowd in Prague.
"I'm super excited for the fans, they came here every game, they supported us, we said it's gonna be very important for us to show them the satisfaction we had. I'm glad that we can build on that," Satoransky began.
Ginzburg and Satoransky enjoying one last moment in front of 12,000 fans
"(There are) mixed feelings, obviously. Happy to get the win and qualify for Berlin, this was probably our best game we played. We imagined we'd be in better spots, but advancing is advancing in front of this crowd."
When Israel made their run in the second half, it looked like all the momentum was going their way, especially as Deni Avdija knocked down his first triple of the game to cut it to 67-65 on first possession of the fourth quarter. But Satoransky answered it immediately with a three of his own, sparking a 13-0 run.
The three-pointer felt like more than just three points. Because (1) it stopped the bleeding, (2) it was the national hero, Tomas Satoransky, the talismanic leader of this team, and (3) because it put an exclamation mark on "I'M BACK!" for him, shooting 3-of-4 from deep and 5-of-11 in this game, after going 0-of-4 and 1-of-10 in those two stat columns in his first two games.
"It's been an emotional roller-coaster for me, these past three weeks. No one expected me to be here. I had to fight this, couldn't even practice until the last day before the championship, and today it started to feel a little bit better. I had to be very patient, I didn't play the way I should play for the national team, and this game was very big for me. I hope I'm going to continue like that in Berlin."
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He'll get a couple of days of rest again before the Czech Republic takes on Greece in the Round of 16 game in Berlin on Sunday. The harder part already ended for these guys, escaping the group seemed like mission impossible just two weeks ago. Now they get to shine on the big stage at least one more time.
"I am really happy for Czech basketball that we advanced from the group. In the past, we did some miracles. Let's see," coach Ginzburg said, already picturing a masterplan how to stop Greece, with Hruban backing him up by accepting the underdog role.
"(Playing Greece) is a treat for us. We didn't have the easy route to the last 16, and now we get to play one of the best players in the world. We will enjoy it, it's gonna be something extra for us. If it's goodbye for us against Giannis (Antetokounmpo), we'll take it."