By Stelios Toromanidis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Vesely is the first player after Mike Batiste to change positions under the instructions of Zeljko Obradovic and he’s doing great. Will he also win the titles the American has? Eurohoops.net presents “Transformers: Basketball Edition” and recalls similar cases.
Jan Vesely is having the best season of his career in the Euroleague, being one of the best big men in the competition as he tallies 13,5 points, 6,9 rebounds, 2 assists and 17,4 units in the ranking in 13 games. His performances in conjunction with his resume bring to mind images from the recent past and the American Mike Batiste!
Do you like the Transformers? You know, those “robots” that can change their shape and size depending on the needs dictated by the difficult situations that they face, like the benevolent Autobots and the evil Decepticons from the eponymous film series by Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg.
If yes, then you must be fans of a certain category of players that, at some point in their career, either because of their body structure or in order to better adapt to the requirements of each team or era, changed positions and roles on the court. In fact, they have done so with such success that they became leading figures on the European basketball stage. You aren’t going to find many of them in the history of the Euroleague. You can count them on the fingers of one hand.
The two main representatives are the… old, Michael Batiste, and the… young, Jan Vesely. In terms of age, they’re separated by 13 years but they have much in common. They were both turned into centers from forwards, served in the NBA, their basketball liftoff occurred with Obradovic as their coach, while from Fenerbahce where the 25-year-old Czech is playing right now, the American veteran has also passed through for a season.
Perhaps, two more players that launched their careers under the instructions of ‘Zots’ could also be included in this category. Dejan Bodiroga, in the final years of his illustrious career was converted into a ‘3’-‘4’ from a ‘2’-‘3’, while Nemanja Bjelica even played as a playmaker at a young age but was established as a power forward as soon as he started playing at the highest level of European basketball. Something similar applies to Chris Singleton, who made a career mainly as a small forward in the NBA and who is now leaving excellent impressions mainly as a center with Lokomotiv Kuban.
However, by far the most characteristic examples of players-Transformers are Batiste and Vesely.
The transformation of Batiste into a legend!
The 2m.03-tall Mike Batiste came to Panathinaikos in the summer of 2003 after a mediocre season with the Memphis Grizzlies playing as a small power forward. However, accompanied by adjectives such as “likeable” and “mediocre” you don’t… go down in history. The man who turned the switch of the green fans’ favorite Mike is none other than the then Panathinaikos coach, Zeljko Obradovic. The leading coach weighed the skills of the dynamic American (strength, athleticism, pick-and-roll game, good defender) and considered it wise to turn him into a center.
“It was a difficult transition, finding myself in a center position from a small power forward. Playing against taller, stronger players wasn’t easy, but I never backed down from anything in my life. And when Obradovic used me as a center, I had to do it. I had to show that I could play in this position and be successful,” Batiste had stated in an older interview.
Judging from the result, the conversion of the Arizona State graduate into a center proved more than successful. Michael became one of the best centers of all-time in the Euroleague, winning 3 European titles, 9 Greek championships, 7 cups and 2 triple crowns with Panathinaikos. His statistics were also rich as he had 11,9 points, 5,2 rebounds and a rating index of 13,5 in 177 appearances in the Euroleague.
The Czech Transformer
The towering Jan Vesely (213 cm.) became widely known when he played basketball with Partizan in the three years from 2008 to 2011. There he was used as a ‘3’. He was brilliant in transition, while in set plays he had more of a game over the rim and executed less from the perimeter, since he doesn’t possess a very good shooting ability. He was still inexperienced and unripe competitively and physically, but his height and his skills betrayed his subsequent evolution into a top player inside the paint. This, of course, required a lot of work.
For the next three years he played in the “magical world” with the Wizards and the Nuggets, something that helped him a lot. He didn’t make it in the NBA, but he got better. He worked hard on getting stronger and gaining muscle mass and thus was able to… shift to the center position. In fact, from the moment he found the right man for successful… conversions in Fener (Zeljko Obradovic), everything has been going according to plan. This year, among other things, he has improved considerably in the department of assists as well. He already tallies 26 in 13 games when last year he had 26 in a total of 29 games.
Of course, in order to… reach the enormous size of the other Transformer, Batiste, he doesn’t have the titles, but he still has many years ahead of him for those. The only thing for certain is that he’s working with the same coach and that the road is wide open.