Blake Schilb (201-G/F-83, college: Loyola, IL) is a player that has seen very much in his 14 professional seasons, played in many countries in Europe including the Czech Republic, France, Serbia, Turkey, and Spain which has spanned approximately 591 professional games not including his national team caps and 118 NCAA games with Loyola University of Chicago (NCAA). The American born naturalized Czech Republic player from Rantoul, Illinois has experienced so many things in his professional career, but remembers that first meeting with French/Bulgarian sharp shooter Ilian Evtimov as if it was yesterday in 2007 when he was a rookie playing an exhibition game against the Deutsche Bank Skyliners in Frankfurt. Sometimes the basketball world can be so small as Schilb was a rookie with Era Basketball Nymburk that had the talented guard duo of Monty Mack and Arthur Lee, not to mention a young 25 year old Petr Benda who was playing his first season there and was starting his amazing and unbelievable run of winning 25 club titles that is still active today as he won the double in 2021, plus head coach Muli Katzurin who would coach Frankfurt a few years later and a certain young assistant coach Ronen Ginzburg who is the mastermind of the 2021 Czech Republic run to the 2021 Summer Olympics. While on the other side of the floor was second year man Ilian Evtimov who had come off a less than spectacular rookie season in Italy, but had had a stellar NCAA career at North Carolina State. Evtimov was surrounded by great talent as well with Skyliner legend in the making Pascal Roller as well as Mr ballerina Derrick Allen, sniper Jimmy Mckinney and German national player Nino Garris. Both would later cross paths again playing with ES Chalon-Sur-Saone (France-ProA) from 2010-2013 and having their biggest success as professionals together. Not only did they help the organization win their first ever professional title, but won 4 in that span including two league cups, a AS Cup title as well as the Pro A title. When having had so much success together, it isn’t surprising that Blake Schilb can have nothing but the utmost love and respect for his ex teammate. ‘You know I first met Ilian while he was playing in Frankfurt. I was in Czech Republic at the time playing for Nymburk and we came over to play a friendly match. I didn’t know who he was before then but he made sure that I never forgot him after lol. Of course the rest is history with what we did in France together. Real stand up guy; hands down one of the best shooters I’ve ever played with’, warned Blake Schilb. The love for each other is mutual. ‘I do remember that meeting in Frankfurt very well. He is a well rounded player that could do anything. A gentleman on the court. What I didn’t realize is how high his IQ actually is until I played with him. Everything was easy and simple. Basketball was fun and flawless when we played together in Chalon. We would laugh often when we would do something, and speaking just with the eyes, and then we would trick the opponent for an open shot or lay up. He is the best player I have ever played with, because he had the ability to take over the game alone but more importantly he elevated other teammates to play their best basketball’, stressed Ilian Evtimov. His teammates also have the utmost respect for him. ‘He is a great teammate that has given me a lot of knowledge about the game. He is a great personality that is always calm. When you need a difficult basket, he will get it for you’, stated Patrick Samoura.
The ex Loyola University of Chicago (NCAA ) great who was on the radar of the Milwaukee Bucks when he was a junior and would have been drafted, but opted to return back to school instead of being drafted finished his career there ranked fourth on Loyola’s career scoring chart (1,879 points) and also ranks as the all-time leader in three-point field goals made (204), 19th in rebounds (600), sixth in assists (430) and fourth in steals (159) recently made history in his country helping lead the Czech republic national basketball team to their first Olympic games. But getting their wasn’t an easy task as they had to qualify and did it in absolute super mega incredible fashion ousting the highly talent Canadian team that had an abundance of NBA stars not much different to the USA and also disposing of Greece who are always stacked with unforgettable players. All in all the Czech Republic seemed to always heighten their play from game to game starting with a comfortable win over Turkey 87-70 which was followed by a real tight affair against Uruguay 80-79 which raised their self-confidence going into the battle against France. ‘The games against both Uruguay and Canada were both nail biters. You would think that escaping with a 1 point win, we would not want to repeat that. However, some costly turnovers in regulation against Canada and we found ourselves in overtime with the hosts. It was a heavy weight battle; both teams throwing blows back and forth. There was a point when I thought it would never end’, remembered Blake Schilb. The Czech Republic were playing superb basketball against Canada, but the contest is never over until the fat lady sings as Canada stormed back in the fourth quarter. The heroics for the game winner fell in the lap of none other than NBA player and star of the team Tomas Satoransky who helped Czech Republic basketball once again reach a new milestone in their basketball history with the 103-101 victory over Canada after reaching sixth place at the 2019 World Cup. The ex FC Barcelona guard made a dazzling one on one play and nailed the shot a bit surprisingly untypical with a bank shot. ‘Those last few seconds when Saty (Tomas) had the ball it was like being in and watching a movie with only one take. When he took the shot, I did not even think to go rebound because I knew it would go in. What I didn’t know is that it would go in off the glass first. I asked him after ‘did you call bank?’ He then replied ‘I called game’, smiled Blake Schilb. Both big man Ondrej Balvin (14/19/4 stats and Blake Schilb (31p and 7a) had monster games and were instrumental in the win. Schilb who was still a bit rusty at the Super Cup in Hamburg a few weeks before saved his best for last and didn’t shy away from showing his sense of humor. ‘Ondrej Balvin is the rock for our team; he controls the paint on both ends of the floor and has just become such a prominent factor in our team’s success. As for the guy Blake Schilb. I think he surprised himself a bit that day’, laughed Blake Schilb. Canada had a smorgasbord of incredible players like Andrew Wiggens, RJ Barrett, Trey Lyles, Cory Joseph, Luegenz Dort and Dwight Powell just to name a few and for the younger players like Patrick Samoura, it must have been like being a five year old boy in a Walgreens and drooling over the newest Fireman Sam toys. For Schilb there was one player who especially stood out to him with his play. ‘The roster for Canada was loaded with NBA players; on paper you could perhaps match them up with some of the stronger USA teams. The player who stood out the most to me in that game had to be Nickeil Alexander-Walker; to me he played with a sense of urgency the whole game’, expressed Blake Schilb who balled at the 2015 European Championships.
If the win against Canada wasn’t already enough, team Czech Republic still weren’t qualified and had to beat Greece in the final and the underdogs still weren’t satisfied and wanted more. On paper Greece were the heavy favorite, but in today’s basketball, it doesn’t mean anything as Nigeria showed recently beating team USA in an exhibition game in preparation for the Olympics. The Czech Republic went into the Greece game with nothing to lose and played their hearts out as the favorite had no chance. The Czech Republic totally dominated and led easily 81-53 after three quarters. The Czech Republic never lost focus and buckled down until the final buzzer and won 91-72. ‘My feeling from the tip against Greece and the way we stormed out was we were going to show no remorse. Patrik Auda led our team in scoring; It was also great to see Jan Vesely bring his energy in that game as well. I believe we had 5 players in double figures that game, so it showed we have capabilities to score from everywhere’, warned Blake Schilb. The last quarter must have been as long for the Czech Republic players like it is for that poor kid in Europe who sees all the gifts under the tree, but has to wait until dinner is over to finally open presents the way some families celebrate Christmas there. ‘The last minutes were very long, especially since we had a controlling lead. There were a bit of worries on the side still because the way we let leads slip the prior two games (Uruguay and Canada) but we showed maturity in the final’, added Blake Schilb. The ex Paris-Levallois (France-ProA) player has played many many games in his career, but seldom did he have the kind of special feeling when the siren sounded and he knew he would be going to Tokyo for the 2021 Olympics. ‘It was actually hard to fathom once the final second on the clock expired but I think the expressions shown were blissful. It’s hard to actually process at the moment, I’m still trying to grasp the idea that we will be going to the Olympics right now at 540am’, said Blake Schilb. After a win like that, one can understand that the elation that everyone has is enormous and finding the right words and length can be very short. ‘After the Greece win coach didn’t say much but that he was proud of everybody involved. He was soaked in all the water we poured on him once he came in the locker room lol he kept it short and sweet’, stated Blake Schilb. Who knows how the Czech Republic team would have been celebrating in the Canadian city Victoria had there not been COVID, but with the current situation people saw a different type of Czech Republic team joy. ‘I believe Victoria got just a taste of what it’s like to see a happy Czech basketball team. Considering we were in the bubble most of the time; I think it allowed us to have the most fun out on the court’, expressed Blake Schilb.
Just like no one has to debate now that Lionel Messi is on top of the world after leading Argentina to the Copa America title, it is the same for the Czech Republic national team that qualifying for the 2021 Summer Olympics is the absolute biggest achievement in their basketball history. ‘I think it’s safe to say that this has to be the biggest achievement in our generations history. Going to the World Cup and finishing sixth was awesome but building on that by qualifying for the Olympics has showed another level for the Czech basketball’, warned Blake Schilb. But the Czech National team don’t want to be tourists at the Olympics, but make an impact in their group. But that won’t be an easy assignment as they drew USA and France in their group. But if they keep their ‘You Gotta Believe attitude then really anything is possible. ‘For sure our group is a tough one. It’s the Olympic Games; every team is going to try to bring their best shot. The order in which we play our games could be significant in our favor. Most important is believing like we always do’, stressed Blake Schilb. He is really looking forward to the opening ceremony and just seeing all walks of life representing their nations and world sport again. The Czech Republic aren’t near to having the same talent like many other nations in the tournament, but they have two very vital things that will help them achieve success. ‘This team of guys has chemistry and have been together for a while now on the national stage. Except for a few of the younger talents who have fit in nicely. We all like to play basketball no doubt but also know about one another’s lives when we are not with the national team’, commented Blake Schilb. Not only do the guys play together very well, but they all like each other and care about each other on and off the court. What better conditions can one have then that for making possible sweet memories at the Olympics.