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Czech Republic captures maiden basketball title

Summer Games 7 August 2023

Asked before the contest who they thought would win the Chengdu FISU World University Games men’s basketball final, it sounded like a vast majority of fans had the same answer: Brazil.

This belief lasted until the final five seconds of the gold-medal duel, when Jonas Buffat missed what would have been a game-winning three-point shot for the Brazilians.

The confrontation went back and forth throughout the four quarters. The Czech Republic won the first stanza, Brazil had the edge in the second, leaving the halftime score even at 34-34.

But, in the end, someone had to prevail, and it was the Czechs.

Jan Zidek (Czech Republic) hits another jump shot against Brazil in gold medal final

Led by a monster performance by forward Jan Zídek, the Europeans beat the South Americans 69-67 in a hard-fought game.

“They were playing really hard, and credit to them, because they didn’t make it easy for us,” said Czech forward Patrick Samoura.

For Zídek, the win did not come out of the blue.

“I am not surprised at all with this result,” he said. “We may not have the best individual players in the tournament, but we had the best team.”

Number 22 was an unstoppable, one-man juggernaut on Sunday night.

He piled up 24 points, nine rebounds, two assists, with his four three-pointers the cherry on top.

“I wasn’t thinking. I was just shooting,” he said.

And Zídek’s showing came at a great time.

In his own estimation, he did not have a great tournament. So, he used this as motivation

“I had a lot to give back to my teammates and my coaches,” he said.

Caio de Souza Pacheco (Brazil) reacts at end of gold medal game vs Czech Republic

The 2,05m post player was the only Czech to surpass the 10-point mark in a showdown dictated by defence.

Both teams shot less than 40 per cent from the field and combined for almost 100 rebounds, making Zídek’s performance even more impressive.

“We had our plan and we followed it,” said forward Nikolaos Noumeros. “We intended to execute great defence to start building our offense, and we did it.”

The Mamba Mentality of NBA legend Kobe Bryant also played a big part in the Czech Republic win.

Noumeros prepared for the gold-medal game by reading his idol’s book, and he thinks that he and his teammates mirror what Bryant did best, which is being himself.

“He wasn’t the most athletic, the fastest or the strongest, but he was the hardest worker,” said the small forward.

Zídek, on the other hand, keeps his role model closer to his heart.

“My dad, George Zídek, is my biggest idol,” he said.

His father was himself a former professional player, who played 135 NBA games with Charlotte, Denver, and Seattle, and also won a United States collegiate national championship with UCLA in 1995.

“I think I channeled my inner dad today.”

Written by Pedro Consoli, FISU Young Reporter