RICHMOND, Va. — The surprise for the Wizards isn't that John Wall could be back sooner than later. Or that Kelly Oubre stands a chance at winning the starting job at small forward. It's rookie Tomas Satoransky, who not only has freakish athleticism but a basketball IQ that caught all of his teammates off-guard.
"For me it was Tomas," said Otto Porter when asked who has wowed him the most. "I’d seen a couple highlights of him playing but actually getting out here playing with him to actually be on his team? One time I was cutting through, he hit me on the back of the shoulder (with the ball). I wasn’t looking for it. I was like, ‘OK, this kid knows how to play.’"
But what has really set apart the European, a 2012 second-round pick for the Wizards who signed a three-year deal for just $9 million this summer, is his flair for the drama. In a pick-up game before training camp started this week, he got the ball in the open court and did something that brought a hush over the practice court.
"He had a fast break. We just thought it was going to be a regular dunk. The kid can jump," Porter said. "He brought it down to his thigh. And everybody was like …. it just got quiet there for a second.”
To a man, every Wizards player voluntarily brought up how shocked they were by Satoransky's assertiveness and confidence.
"He got the most bounce on the team," Bradley Beal said. "I’m saying it right now."
More than Oubre, who at 6-7 is an exceptional athlete himself? Who'd win a dunk contest between the two?
"It depends what you base you dunk contest on. If you want tricks, I think Tomas might get KO," Beal said. "Hey, I was drafted with the man. I was in here 2012 in this gym when he was in here flying, dunking on everybody. He’s still doing that today.”
Oubre still would take himself in such a contest but the second-year player has been nonetheless impressed.
“He surprised me, honestly," he said. "He’s athletic, a legit 6-7, he kind of looks me in the eyes. And he’s a point guard. I’m excited to see the versatility. Tomas has some creative juices in his bounce."
Satoransky took it all in stride and with a sense of humor.
“They didn’t know me that much," he said. "They didn’t know I could do this stuff, that I’m athletic. White guy athletic. That kind of surprised them. Hopefully I can continue to surprise people who don’t know me, who don’t believe in me.”
Thursday is Day 3 of training camp at Siegel Center on the campus of VCU. Nothing has happened to make coach Scott Brooks scale down his expectations. Being an exceptional athlete can help a player such as Satoransky get off his own shot over other great athletes.
But Jan Vesely, Satoransky's close friend whom he consulted before coming to Washington, was supposed to be a great athlete and didn't last. Vesely didn't have the same ball-handling ability nor did he have as good of a grasp of English.
Brooks is setting the bar high for Satoransky, who is projected to be a backup point guard to John Wall and at shooting guard for Beal.
"I think that’s going to be his strength in this league, it’s being able to guard multiple players and play different spots on offense," Brooks said. "I think he has the ability to be a jack-of-all trades and he’s going to be able to play all three spots."
Satoransky isn't ready to commit to being able to defend small forwards just yet. The players are much bigger and physical there. He'll have his hands full as it is trying to stay in front of speedy point guards.
“I don’t think about the three position. I would have to build my body and my whole skills play against the three position," he said. "I can see myself on a point guard and two position. It’s very different to guard point guards in Europe and here. It’s much more complicated here. Everyone’s fast, athletic."
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