Basketball pivot James Karnik is relishing the chance to prove himself to the Czech national basketball team. The twenty-four-year-old native of Surrey, Canada, took part in Poděbrady on Tuesday, after arriving from Vancouver, in his preparation before the European Championship in September, one of the main groups which will be hosted by Prague. He also holds Czech citizenship after his father, and his move to Ronen Ginzburg’s team after a search for reinforcements was brokered by national team manager Michal Šob. Karnik dreamed of the Czech national team and in the end he was surprised that the first contact came from the other side.
Šob contacted her by e-mail in mid-June, and they then corresponded by phone after exchanging contacts. “I was very surprised. I never thought that someone would discover me like this,” Karnik said in an interview with reporters. “I immediately told Michal on the phone that I have a Czech passport and Czech blood. I was happy and immediately called my grandfather and grandmother. Maybe they will try to come here and visit me, and I myself can’t wait to go to the Czech Republic.”
After graduating from Boston College, he agreed to work in Europe in Geneva. He thought at first that he could somehow contact the Czech national team on the occasion of the move to the old continent. “Ever since I was little, I wanted to play for Czechia more than Canada, but I thought I had to play in Europe for a while before anyone from the Czech Republic noticed me. So I thought it was a year before . It’s great that it can be accelerated,” Karnik said.
His father immigrated from what was then Czechoslovakia with his parents at the age of six. Mom is Canadian. He is looking for ways to the Czech Republic. “I contacted several teams in the Czech league, but nothing resonated. Maybe they want me to play somewhere in Europe first. I asked my agents about the possibility of representation, but they don’t know who it should be contact, so fortunately Michal called,” Karnik said.
The national team builders want to test the new player and expect that he is unlikely to fit into the full stable squad for the European Championship. However, in the event of a possible lack of pivots, he may get another chance, for example, in the World Championship qualifiers in November. “Having the opportunity to train with all the boys here is a big thing. My family is very proud. My father and grandparents, who all come from Czechoslovakia, are happy that I will have the opportunity to represent our family, and hopefully I will have a future in the Czech national team,” hoped the 206-centimeter-tall Karnik.
He understands Czech and will also improve his conversation. “I really understand more than I can say. My father and grandparents always spoke Czech and tried to teach me something, so that I could count and say some phrases, but I didn’t have enough opportunities to practice it regularly. So now I hope that while playing in the Czech national team, I will have more opportunities to work on my Czech so that I can speak more fluently. I know after a few months I will be able to pick up a lot. It’s just that I haven’t been able to speak Czech for years, so it was difficult at first,” he said.
As the youngest of three siblings, he had the worst time in Czech. “My sister, who is the oldest of us, received a decent training, my brother was a bit lacking, and I, as the youngest, did not get much. My brother even lived in Prague for three years and speaks fluently,” said Karnik, who also visited Czechia. “About five times, so I have visited all the places that are important to my family in Dobruška and around Nové Město nad Metují,” he declared.
He headed to the Czech Republic after his time in the Canadian Summer League (CEBL) with the Fraser Valley Bandits team, where he was selected as coach by Mike Taylor, a former Czech national team assistant. “My first phone call to Michal Šob was the day before the first practice in the Fraser Valley, and after that practice Mike came to me and said: ‘Will you play for Czechia?’ I was training there, and when I saw you, you got it.’ And he told me good things about representation. I am grateful for his assurance,” Karnik said.
He only played for the Canadian national team in youth. “They were national selections that we have in every province. They’re always the best players from the region, and here I was selected to the first All-Star team against players like (New York Knicks point guard JR) Barrett and other guys who are in the NBA now. Despite this award, I was not moved towards the national team, which is politically related within Canadian basketball. I don’t have any official matches in Canadian colors on my account, but that’s good now, because it could be a problem during my integration with the Czech national team,” he said.
“I was invited to a test before the Olympic qualification and so could aspire to participate in the team, but the situation was like that when I was playing for Boston College, that is, in the USA, and during the covid period it was difficult. for me to lead the national team to bring to the team,” he added. Canada was knocked out by the Czechs in the semi-finals of qualification for Tokyo last year.