Jan Zidek (206-F-99) is a 21 year old 206cm forward from Prague, Czech Republic that is currently playing with the Czech National team. He has played the last two years with Pepperdine University (NCAA) averaging 5.5ppg, 1.2rpg, FGP: 70.0%, 3PT: 31.8%, FT: 85.7% as a freshman and averaged 9.4ppg, 3.5rpg, FGP: 57.8%, 3PT: 35.9%, FT: 78.6% in his second season. The big man began his career with USK Praha and has played with the Czech Republic U-18 national team and U-20 national team. He is the son of former NBA player Jiri Zidek who won the NCAA title with UCLA and won a Euroleague championship. He spoke to germanhoops.com during the 2021 Super Cup in Hamburg, Germany.
Jan thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Welcome to Hamburg, Germany. Is this your first time in Hamburg?
This is my first time in Hamburg. I haven’t been able to see much, because I have had that bus, hotel and gym rhythm. But I bet it’s a nice city.
There is a lot of water in Hamburg. Does the water and old buildings remind you a bit of Prague?
Yes a little bit.
Your with the Czech Republic National team playing the Super Cup. How exciting is it being with the national team at age 21?
My time with the national team has been very exciting. I try to take every opportunity on and off the court and try to learn as much as possible. For me it’s important getting to have that Czech Republic national team culture, because I know that one day it will be my turn. I have to learn as much as possible form the older guys so I can lead the team one day.
Many NBA guys won’t be there like Daniel Theis and Maxi Kleber and when exactly Dennis Schroeder will arrive is unknown. But you played against Isaac Bonga, Moritz Wagner and Nicol Melli. Were you extra motivated to play against guys like that?
Yes for sure. As soon as I saw some of these guys warming up, I became super motivated. It has been eye opening to play against guys like that. I realize that they make big money and have had success at a high level. I know that with time not much will separate me from them as long as I keep working hard
As a young player, what do you focus on most with your opportunity with being there with the National team.
As a new guy I focus most on bringing energy. I also focus on playing defense and getting rebounds. And on offense I focus most on just playing my game.
You suffered two tough loses against Germany and Italy. How is the state of the team mentally? Is there a lot of pressure to match that sixth place in the World Cup in 2019?
Losing the way we did against Germany and the Italy so heavily was tough since most guys were on the team from 2019 in China. But we know that we are still in the preparation phase. We also know that this isn’t an excuse, but we want to learn from our mistakes and continue to move on.
How is the state of Czech basketball at the moment? Is basketball growing and how is the youth development going?
I think that since our sixth place at the World Cup in 2019 that it is continuing to go up. I think when we have everyone, we can be very strong. The Czech Republic does a good job that the young players are taken good care of with their clubs. I think that we will continue to follow in the foot-steps of China in the future with our youth
What is it like being teammates with an amazing player like Blake Schilb. I always thought he was a guy that could have played in the NBA
It has been a great experience. There also is no language barrier since I have played two years in college. He is always supportive when I ask him questions. He is very smart and very experienced. It is great being able to learn from him. He tells me important things about little details like hands on defense. I feel when I can put together what he says, I can be very effective
NBA player Tomas Satoransky and Jan Vesely will join the team soon. Have you met these guys before. Are you in total awe of them or are you able to act around them normally?
There is no reason why I shouldn’t act normal. I have trained with Satoransky before. I haven’t met Jan Vesely yet, but I know that I will act normal around him. I will eb very happy to be able to paly by his side.
The Czech Republic will be playing against Uruguay and Turkey in Canada soon. How confident is the team that the Olympics could become a reality?
I think that the team is very confident. Especially when everyone gets here. We have a very good mind set that will continue to help us become a better team.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 206cm forward. If you had to compare your game to a NBA player who would best fit the description?
I would compare my game to a Kristaps Porzingis or Maxi Kleber.
You can score and rebound and have a three pointer. Would you classify yourself as a modern day forward?
For sure. Now a days you need to play inside out and I do that. I can play in the post and put the ball on the floor. I also can guard the penetration. I’m still learning and there is a lot of room for improvement.
You have played two seasons in the NCAA. How are you a different player today than two years ago?
I got a lot stronger the last two years. I’m very excited about what my game will bring in the next years with my body stronger. My defense and rebounding got better. I have become more of an all around player at Pepperdine.
On what areas of your game are you working on most to continue to get better as a player?
My working on my low and mid post game and also trying to become a better 1-1 player.
You began your career with USK Praha that is known as being one of the best organizations in the Czech Republic concerning it’s youth program. How do you feel did your game profit most there?
The two most important things was just learning the game of basketball and as a shooter understanding spacing better.
You played the last two years with Pepperdine University (NCAA). Talk about your experience there. How has the easy going Californian lifestyle, basketball and school help shape you as a person?
I am super happy that I made this step. Not only from the basketball side, but also off the court. I have met so many people and learned about a new culture. The whole experience has opened my eyes and made me more opened minded.
In your last Freshman game, you lost a tough 75-70 game against top school Gonzaga scoring 11 points. What memories do you have from that game and how key was ending the season like that?
The memories of that game are good and bad. After that game, I broke my hand in practice and couldn’t finish the season. The good thing was that it was my best game as a freshman. It was an insane experience playing at Gonzaga and seeing those crazy fans. They have an amazing fan base at Gonzaga. It was one of the best fan games that I have experienced so far in my career.
What was it like battling against Killian Tillie. How have you seen your own development since that game and are you that far away from a guy with his skills?
He is a guy that has a similar game to mine. He is also a smart player. I have gotten better as a player from that time until now. I would like to see where I am as a player now in comparison to his game. I would like to think that I am closer. But I try to stay humble.
You made a big jump in your game as a sophomore at Pepperdine. How would you say has your game grown in your two years there?
As a freshman I was more a shooter, but in my second year I became more of a guy that had a presence in the paint and could rebound. I did the dirty work and things you didn’t see on the stat sheet. I also become a better finisher at the rim. I knew that I had to become more of an all-around player than just a shooter
How vital has head coach Lorenzo Romar been in your early NCAA development?
He is a great coach. He improved my game and helped me become more of an all-around player than just a shooter.
Who wins a one on one in practice you or Kene Chukwuka?
We never played. But if we did I would have to take myself.
What will the future have for you after the NCAA? Do you see yourself playing in the NBL always or is your focus to move to higher leagues?
My focus is to reach the higher leagues. I don’t want to go home. The NBL would be a last option.
Who has been the toughest player that you ever faced that might be in the NBA or Euroleague?
Who are your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Jaromir Bohacik, Ondrej Balvin, Vojtech Hruban, Tomas Satoranksy, Kessler Edwards
What is your personal NBA Mount Rushmore?
Jordan, Kobe, Karl Malone, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry
Will Luka Doncic be the best player in the NBA one day. Is he top 3 now?
He has a high chance that he will be the best one day. Now he is top
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Jan for the chat.