By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Out of the many storylines that so far dominate the narrative of the 2018-2019 EuroLeague season, few are perhaps more surprising – unexpected, even, to some – than Jan Vesely‘s final stages of evolution towards becoming an elite (seriously) free throw shooter.
While Vesely himself doesn’t enjoy so much being at the center of the spotlight for reasons that have to do with individual numbers and personal stats, he admits that he’s well aware that his free throw shooting has been quite a “hot” topic this EuroLeague season.
“Well, you guys certainly love to talk about it. Me? I’m just doing my job,” Vesely told Eurohoops with a wide smile. “That’s my focus. And one of the jobs I have to do is making free throws.”
The Fenerbahce forward/center stopped for a moment to hit the table. “Knock on wood, so far it’s going pretty well I think.” The surface of the table was all glass. It had to suffice.
We are talking about 86.8 percent and 46 made free throws out 53 attempts in the 10 EuroLeague games Vesely has played so far this season. He is currently ranked fourth in free-throw accuracy in the competition while some weeks ago he was at the top of the list after beginning with 29/31 in the first eight Rounds.
That’s quite the climb from the 70.7 percent Vesely had in 2017-2018 and a seriously outstanding leap from his early seasons with Fenerbahce.
Four years ago when he returned to EuroLeague following what he describes as an unpleasant stint in the NBA, Vesely suffered with each trip to the line. In his first two seasons with the Turkish team, he had a horrid 49.5 percent on 108 attempts. 2015-2016 numbers from the charity stripe were even more atrocious for the Czech big man that saw his shooting being dropped to 45.3 percent on the 95 free throws he took that season.
Despite these free-throw woes, 2015-2016 culminated in a first-time All-EuroLeague First Team appearance for Vesely while his team made its maiden appearance in the league’s Final. After coming down from 21 points in the second half of the title game against CSKA Moscow, Fenerbahce found themselves up by two in the last seconds of regulation. A put-back basket by Viktor Khryapa forced the overtime, where the Russian team won 101-96 to capture the title.