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Shelb in USK, thinking about the national team: When I mentioned the end, the kids were crying

At the end of his career, the two words came out of his mouth. However, as he told them, his four children, whom he was raising with his Czech wife Barbora, began to cry. And their father said to himself: I do not want to leave like this, not because of a pandemic. Thus the Illinois citizen at the age of thirty-seven and intends to resume his football career in the Czech Republic met at Folimance in Prague. In the USK jersey, the former Ligue 1 fighter would like to play and return to the national team, which is awaiting qualification for the Tokyo Olympics at the start of July.

Blake Shelb
Boy: December 23, 1983 (aged 37)
Height: 201 cm
Professional life: 2007-2009 CEZ Basketball Nymburk,
2009-2013 Ilan Chalons (France),
2013-2014 Red Star Belgrade,
2014-2015 Paris Levallois,
2015-2017 Galatasaray Istanbul,
2017-2018 Real Betis (p.),
2018-20 Champagne Chalons Reims.
Achievements: EuroCup Cup Winner (2016), 3x Winner Kooperativa NBL (2007, 2008, 2009), 3x Czech Cup Winner (2007, 2008, 2009), French League Winner (2012), Twice French Cup Winner (2011, 2012), Best French League Player (2012), 2x All Star of the French League (2011, 2012), MVP French League Final (2012)

What does a return to the Czech league after twelve years, moreover, after a year without a basketball?
“It feels very good to be back in the Czech Republic, where I started my professional career. I know the history and direction of USK Club. It is a great opportunity for both sides to join forces and try to succeed in playing and getting off. Really great thing. I haven’t played in a pandemic for a year, and I haven’t been.” Without matches for a long time, so being able to return to basketball, when I no longer think such an opportunity will come, and at the same time to return to the Czech Republic among familiar faces, is a blessing for me. “

Describe what your last year looked like?
“It was very insecure for everyone because of the epidemic. Not playing basketball at once and not knowing which direction my career would take turns my life upside down. I spent a lot of time with my family, and I go home to America, where we haven’t spent much time yet because I worked In Europe, from a basketball point of view, it was uncertain, I trained over the weekend, and played some games on Tuesdays and Sundays. It was a very good level, but not what I imagined.

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How was it possible to train in the United States?
“It was difficult to train because of the Covid protocols. Often it was just one-on-one training, as others couldn’t. The matches were then against boys all over the university, as well as professionals. Or older fighters who had already spent most of their careers.”

Did you dominate?
“I try to be humble, but I overcame them in everything.” (Laugh)

Why did you really decide not to return to France, where you last worked in Reims?
“In January I had a chance and some performances, but I felt the timing was not perfect. I wasn’t ready to go back to basketball like that. There were other things in my job to be done.”

Admit it, have you ever thought about the end of your career?
And many times. When, after twelve or thirteen years, you don’t suddenly play without stopping, you start to wonder if you are not old or in bad shape. And if it is not time to try something new. But it always comes to mind. You are a player and you want to compete. So I tried to get rid of these ideas and continue to work regardless of my age. “

What about the family?
“Once, when I was joking at home and telling the kids that I was done, they started crying. So I said maybe I would never finish, (laughs) We agreed that my dad wouldn’t finish until he wanted it, and not because of the epidemic that ended the seasons. I don’t think that. Someone deserves it. “

How much motivated you to extend your career to the opportunity to play for the Czech national team in the Olympics?
“The main desire is to play basketball. The first priority is to play for USK and get back on the field. In the long run, when the season is over, my goal is to play for the national team. Of course the Olympics is everyone’s goal. However, the first task is to manage it here at USK, trying to prove something special in qualifying and improving as a club. Of course the goal is to train and prepare for the national team. We’ll see how things go with qualifying. Last year was disappointing when everything was canceled, but I think we hope the Olympics will be held this year. “

Did the national team coach Ronen Ginsburg push you to find a participation and open the way for the national team?
“Coach Nino always wants to get your best. He always told me that I could play basketball until I was 45, because I’m not an athlete and I run slowly. (Laughs) Of course we’ve been in touch and talking about how I can keep going. We haven’t met each other since I was.” I was in the Czech Republic, but we are connected and I think we will meet again soon. “

How difficult would it be for the 37-year-old veteran to return to the pace of wrestling?
“In basketball, it’s important to stay in shape, and that’s what I tried to do. What will be a little different is the atmosphere. I haven’t had much opportunity to play matches without fans yet. I haven’t actually experienced that throughout my career so it will be different.” “.

How many members of the USK Team do you know?
“I know a few of them from the national team and from other events. I also looked at the younger players, trying to find out something about them. I’m a bit of a scout now. It’s been known that in the USK they give youngsters a chance and raise them. Being a part of it is great, especially at this point.” From your professional life. I can pass on experience to the boys which I hope will help them improve. “

Obviously, you will also be the oldest player on the younger team in the competition.
“We simply knew that at the time. But like Benjamin Button, I’m younger every day.” (Laughter)

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How do you look forward to the matches against Nimbork, in which you won three Czech titles?
“It can be fun. But we have to go to matches with Nimbork first.”

So in the final?
“Maybe, but I don’t promise you anything.” (Laugh)

When will you be ready to jump into NBL?
“Immediately. Already on Sunday against Cologne.”

How many minutes do you wait on the board, or will you be able to handle it?
“I don’t know, I still feel travel fatigue after arriving from America. Plus, I’ve never been without a match in my life. The following exercises will show me how physically I am. Then the coaches decide how many minutes I can handle.”

Twenty minutes is the minimum for a start?
“That would be great, I definitely feel this way. But I don’t want to impose minutes, I am here to help the team as much as possible. Get back in shape as quickly as possible.”

A year without basketball should have helped you, too. You have recharged your lights, your wounds healed, and you are hungry. do you agree?
“Sure. I have a lot of energy, my body is fine. It turns out how much I missed basketball. Not many men in my position will get such an opportunity that I get. I am grateful for it and I don’t want to waste it. I open every minute on the field as best I can.” I’ve loved basketball all my life, and I don’t want to lose it. “

We are talking about the Olympic Games, but next year the Czechs will take part in the organization of Eurobasket. Can you afford it?
“I’m not sure. I’m really taking it step by step. Now I basically want to help USK improve an already good season. And then we’ll see what happens to the national team. Of course, it would be nice if I kept playing for a year or two. But the pandemic has shown everyone that it is.” You can’t plan too much. “

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