When Fenerbahce went through a challenging period last year, Jan Vesely didn't come to the locker room with a 15-minute speech. He's not a fan of talking. A 31-year-old center prefers leading by example. It was set for him by the best captain that Vesely ever had. Jan always turned back to him when needed. Still going through a windy rebuilding process, Vesely's leadership is now needed more than ever by the Fenerbahce family.

You can't call Jan Vesely a guest on the sidelines of Ulker Sports Arena, even if it's your show. The Fenerbahce leader has worn this jersey since 2014. Only him and Melih Mahmutoglu play for the Istanbul powerhouse to this day.

"When I was coming, I didn't know what Fenerbahce meant. I knew that they were playing in the EuroLeague, and they had a history. But when I came and became a part of Fenerbahce, not only in basketball but as a club, I was surprised when I saw what kind of history and fanbase they had. That's one of the reasons why I stayed for so many years because I like these fans and energy. I love it here," Vesely told on BasketNews Talks.

Credit AFP - Scanpix

When Vesely finished his first-ever Olympic mission with the Czech basketball national team and visited all his family members and friends in Serbia or the Czech Republic, he was looking forward to returning to Istanbul. To getting back to his routine, having everything set and familiar.

"It's my home now," Jan smiles.

The following topic also made him smile.

"Thanks for bringing it up," he laughs when I start talking about his age and experience.

That young flying Czech, who joined Fenerbahce back in 2014, is now a 31-year-old veteran. Eventually, Vesely will be the second oldest player on his team after Nando De Colo, 34. In the house of Fenerbahce, everybody will be looking at their veterans. But Vesely embraces this opportunity.

"I don't talk so much that I can come to the locker and give a 15-minute speech. I don't like this. I don't talk like, "you made this bad; you didn't set the screen." I like to go by myself and show by example," Vesely explains. "I'm still learning. On the court, I try to help my teammates. Every year we have new players coming in, so I'm trying to explain to them the culture of Fenerbahce, which games mean the most, which you can't lose, and must give 200%. Okay, if you lose, at least fans will understand you gave everything. Those kinds of stuff."

He leads by an example he saw in Belgrade. An 18-year-old Vesely joined Partizan back in 2008. The young Czech center soaked up everything like a sponge from his captain with wide-open eyes and ears.

"In my years in Fenerbahce, we had a lot of great players and good leaders. But honestly, in my career, I always turn back to my captain, who was in Partizan. It's Petar Bozic," Vesely revealed.

In three seasons with Vesely, Bozic was playing from 9 to 17 minutes per EuroLeague game. He spent eight years wearing a Partizan jersey. 

"Honestly, this is the best example of leadership and professionalism. At that time, he didn't play much, but he still was the captain. Whatever he said, that was it," Vesely told on BasketNews Talks. "He was always right. We never questioned his words. Even if you talk about something on the court that's not good for the team, he comes to you and tells you straight up to shut up, and it's not the way to talk. 

Every time he stepped on the court, even he had his knees problems, he still came. He's a fighter. He was always best in practice, where he gave 100%. He was doing all these little things.

Now, being the second oldest on the team, I'm trying to implement this behavior in the back of my head, even how we talk to the players on the court. This stayed in my head basically for 14 years since I came to Partizan. I have known that guy for 14 years, it stayed with me, and for me, he is the best captain and leader on and off the court."

Credit Fotodiena.lt/R.Dačkus

After he retired, Bozic joined Partizan's coaching staff in 2013. He actually took the helm of the legendary team after Dusko Vujosevic stepped down in 2015. But this experience didn't last long because Bozic left the head coaching position after six months. Recently five-time ABA league champion was appointed as the new head coach of the NBA G League team Austin Spurs. 

Partizan, Vesely's former team, has a new head coach, which surprises Jan to this day.

"It's weird. I spent six years with him, and it's weird," Vesely smiles, watching Zeljko Obradovic leading the Partizan. "But again, that's life. Everybody has their own path. It's impossible that someone can be with the team for 20 years. He's not Gregg Popovich (laughs) that he's really there for that many years. I think he needed a break. He asked for it. And I think it's a good challenge for him.

Honestly, I was surprised by this decision. I understand the challenge, but I was still surprised. I like the project. I like the idea. And I'm looking forward to seeing how they'll do in the season."

Obradovic started rebuilding Fenerbahce seven years ago by signing Jan Vesely. He came as a four but became a new dimensional center, who was very athletic, quick, and so skilled that EuroLeague couldn't offer a lot of matchups for him.

Zeljko even played a pick and roll with Nemanja Bjelica as a four and Vesely as a five, which was new in the league.

Now Vesely and Fenerbahce face an entirely new chapter, still going through a rebuild in the post-Obradovic era.  

"It's not easy to bring whoever after him when you have Obradovic for six years as your head coach. Everybody thinks you can't change him. But you have to," Vesely told on BasketNews Talks. "He left, so now you have to do your best as the coach and we as the players too, to help the coach to get used to the atmosphere here, the club's expectations. Melih and I are here forever. We have to help everybody around with the transition to know what we're doing."

Vesely and Fenerbahce won the EuroLeague in 2018. He became the EuroLeague MVP in 2019. He's also a three-time Turkish league champion, three-time Turkish Cup winner, and three-time All-EuroLeague First Team member.

If Vesely manages to deliver few more titles, he'll join the Hall of Fame of Fenerbahce. Who knows, maybe one day his jersey will be retired here at the Ulker Sports Arena.

"Honestly, it's not my goal, but that would be a crazy career accomplishment to have my jersey retired," Vesely told. "But I'm 31-year-old. There's still a lot in front of me. We'll see what's going to happen. I try to lead by example, try to go on the court to do my best and help my team the best I can."

Watch or listen to an entire conversation with Jan Vesely:

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