Getting to know women's basketball center and Czech Republic native Hana Vesela
For most college freshmen, leaving home for the first time can be hard. It’s a difficult transition for anyone to say goodbye to loved ones, move into a small room with a complete stranger and get used to a totally different lifestyle. While this is generally the case for most freshmen, it can be even more overwhelming for international students — those on a collegiate sports team on top of that.
For freshman center on the women’s basketball team, Hana Vesela, this is her daily routine.
Vesela is an international student from Príbor, a small town in the Czech Republic, and although she comes from a country that is thousands of miles away, she’s been getting used to American culture for a few years.
Vesela’s journey to America began in 2013 when she enrolled in a foreign exchange program and was placed at Brimley High School in Brimley, Mich. for her junior year of high school. Brimley is a small city in Michigan’s upper peninsula right outside of Sault Ste. Marie.
Vesela comes from a seasoned pedigree of proven athletes. Both of her parents were professional athletes in the Czech Republic. Her mother, Ivana Somolova, played volleyball and her father, Jan Vesely, played basketball. Her brother, also named Jan Vesely, was drafted sixth overall by the Washington Wizards.
Vesely played with the Wizards until 2014 when he was traded to the Denver Nuggets. Jan now plays for the Fenerbahce basketball team in the Turkish Basketball League.
During her time at Brimley, she averaged an impressive 15.9 points per game, 10.3 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 2.6 assists. Vesela’s performance earned her first-team all-state honors by multiple media outlets and she was also awarded Eastern Upper Peninsula Player of the Year.
In addition to her impressive background in the states, Vesela played on the Czech Republic U-16 National Team, and hopes to play for her country again in the near future.
Although Vesela is clearly a talented athlete, she admits she still has a lot of work to do to transition and get used to the American style of play.
“Where I played in the Czech Republic, we didn’t really lift a lot so I didn’t have to be that strong,” Vesela said. “But coming here it’s very physical and you have to be very strong, we worked on it a lot over the summer but we still have to be better. ”
Luckily for Vesela, women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant sees potential and is excited for what the future holds.
“She’s going to be really good,” Merchant said. “She can shoot the ball, she can really, really pass it, she can handle it and she’s quick in transition. ... I’m excited about where she’s at now and where she’s going to go.”
Now that the school year is in full swing, Vesela is getting past the barriers that can often alienate international students from the rest of campus culture.
“I think language was the biggest issue,” Vesela said. “And probably being without family and friends and being in a new environment, it’s difficult and even with basketball we are really busy and we have a lot going on.”
Like most college freshmen, Vesela deals with homesickness on an occasional basis. She said she takes advantage of FaceTime and Skype to talk to her family.
She also overcomes her homesickness by bonding with her friends and teammates.
“Sometimes when I have a bad day at school or practice didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I really feel homesick,” Vesela said. “It’s really hard, you just want to go home and talk to your mom and you can’t. But we have things like FaceTime and Skype so it’s one of the positives. We all really struggle with homesickness so we kind of share our thoughts, and if like a player or one girl is having a bad day the others will listen and be there for her.”
But with the end of her first semester winding down, Vesela feels she is adjusting to campus life just fine.
“I always had the feeling that if I went somewhere else, it would be a mistake and I wanted to stay here,” Vesela said. “I just had a feeling I had to be here with the coaches and the players. I just love it.”