So, I’ve been waiting to write an article on UD’s newest European for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I was hoping to find out more about this mystery man that no one can seem to find any material on. After a few hours of scouring deep, dark corners of the internet the picture didn’t become all that much more clear, but I do have some healthy nuggets of information worth sharing regarding our new chain-smoking, beer-drinking, whore-house-frequenting Euro boy.
Matej Svoboda is a 6’7, 190lb “small” forward from the Czech Republic’s third-largest city of Ostrava on the eastern side of the country near Poland. (Let’s learn real quick!) Couple things to make you sound educated this season:
1. It doesn’t matter if you call it Czechia or Czech Republic, both are correct. Basically, the government made “Czechia” the official country name last year, but it never really caught on. Still, if you want to sound cool and educated, says he’s from Czechia.
2. Czech’s love drinking beer, and their drinking age is 18. So being in Dayton, OH as a 20 yr old will be, um, an adjustment I’m sure, for young Matej.
3. Ostrava is 6 hours ahead of Dayton, OH, so the family back home is going to have some early mornings watching their boy play hoops for those night games.
4. When speaking about Matej, don’t call him eastern European, they get pissy about that. Czechia is in central Europe.
Ok, you feel more educated? Neat, back to basketball.
I’ve watched film of Matej play 3 different times now which is enough to make a few logical conclusions about his game without REALLY knowing diddly about what we will get out of him this season. First off, Matej has spent the last 4 seasons on CEZ Nymburk, the top (read: dominant) team in Czechia’s premier basketball league, the NBL. A quick google search will show you that CEZ Nymburk has won the championship in the Czech NBL every year since 2004. I swear I couldn’t make that shit up.
In the four years that Matej has been on CEZ Nymburk, they have a combined record of 122-4. I don’t care what competition you’re playing against, that’s fucking incredible. With that said, notable players currently in the Czech NBL include: Ryan Boatwright (Uconn), Earl Clark (Louisville), DJ White (Indiana), Cameron Clark (Oklahoma), two guys you may have heard of named Kevin Dillard and Dyshawn Pierre (UPDATED: I thought I saw DP on a roster in the NBL but I was mistaken, he plays in Italy now, my bad dudes), and then some pale-faced dipshit named Aaron Craft. There’s never a bad time really….
Before you get too excited about Matej playing on the 1970’s-UCLA of Czech basketball, it is worth mentioning he has been mostly a role player off the bench, averaging anywhere between 9-12 minutes per game in his tenure. When you consider the level of competition, this is still really impressive for a 20-year-old kid, considering he’s been in the league since he was 17 and he’s bumping around with a lot of post-college players between 23-30 with 4 years of NCAA Division 1 basketball under their belt. Matej’s 2016-17 stat line with CEZ Nymburk looks like this:
23 appearances – 9.1 min/gm – 24-44 from the field (54%) – 18-53 from 3 (34%) – 4.6 pts/gm – minimal contributions in the AST, STL and REB columns
Everything out of Dayton right now raves about Svoboda’s “high basketball IQ” which is not all that much of a stretch to believe since he is playing against above average competition in the NBL. He’s a smooth offensive player who has a mature understanding of the game, and makes up for his lack of speed with positioning. While Matej has a very fluid jumper from outside, his defensive game can be lackadaisical at times and he shows a slight reluctance to crash the boards in the film I’ve seen, which leads me to believe he would be a great compliment at the #2 spot, especially given his size. Early impressions are that he’s further along in his development than we would normally see in a 20-year-old, which is highly encouraging given the lack of depth and experience we are bringing into the season in the backcourt. So essentially, think a taller Jordan Sibert who is most comfortable at the 3.
Numbers start to really jump off the stat sheet when you look at Matej’s contributions on the U20 Czech National team last summer.
Svoboda was the top scorer in the tournament over 7 games, averaging 19 pts per contest, coupled with 7.3 RPG and 1.9 AST. He shot 47% from the field, and a truly impressive 50% from downtown on 21-of-42 shooting. I would put more stock in these stats personally, considering that his competition in the states will obviously be against guys closer to 20 years old anyways. Although, I’m not particularly well-versed on how strong the competition is in U20 FIBA tournaments in Europe, so take that with a grain of salt, I suppose.
If you want to watch him in action, here’s a full game from the FIBA U20 Championship last summer that I mentioned above. Svoboda is #11 in blue.
Conclusion: the coach we used to have (whose name is escaping me) may have found a real gem to compliment the roster this year. With his combination of size and perimeter shooting, it sounds like Matej should be able to contribute from day one as a grown man as opposed to a scrawny-ass freshman trying to find his footing. While I am always skeptical of guys like this for their lack of recruitment elsewhere, the possibility exists that UD just plain got lucky and snatched up a quality wing before anyone else noticed. Nevertheless, it’ll be nice to have a guy who could enlist the help of some leather jacket-wearing European thugs to wait for an opposing team outside the arena should the shit escalate during a game. All good things really, makes us edgy. While his involvement in the Sam Miller Incident of 2017 will always be debated by Flyers young and old, I suggest you buy your Czech flags now, Red Scare.
Wear Red, Be LOWD, #BeNormal
The LOWD ambassador of Chicago, Sully has spent his life tirelessly watching UD hoops. Welcomer of all takes, hot and cold.