NBA

Wizards pick Czech Republic's Vesely with 1st pick

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WASHINGTON (AP)

Flip Saunders is very impressed with Jan Vesely. The Washington Wizards coach worked out the 6-foot-11 forward from the Czech Republic and liked his basketball skills. When he watched Vesely passionately kiss his girlfriend on television after his selection by the Wizards was announced, Saunders liked him even more.

Vesely, who's seeking to become the third player from the Czech Republic to play in the NBA, was selected with the sixth pick in the first round of Thursday's NBA draft.

''His greatest skill - outside of his kissing - is probably how hard he plays,'' Saunders said.

The 6-foot-11 Vesely averaged 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds for Partizan in 26 games in the Adriatic League. In Partizan's 15 games in the Euroleague, he averaged 10.1 points and 3.6 rebounds.

Washington scouted him for the past two years, and he knows that European basketball is far different from the NBA.

''It'll be a challenge. It's a different world,'' Vesely said on a conference call. ''It's really, really fast basketball - so fast- and I'll have to work on that.''

A year ago, the Wizards had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and their selection - point guard John Wall - had an outstanding rookie year. He averaged 16.4 points and 8.3 assists a game.

Vesely said he's excited to play with Wall.

''I like his game - so I'm happy to be in Washington.''

Washington took Florida State junior forward Chris Singleton with the 18th pick in the first round and Shelvin Mack, a 6-foot-3 junior guard from Butler with the 34th pick in the second round.

''We like the players we got. We targeted these players,'' Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. ''We're trying to improve on the defensive end. We've added a lot of athleticism, a lot of versatility. All three of these players have showed that they're great defenders.''

Last year, Washington lost 59 games and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season

The 6-foot-9 Singleton left the Seminoles after his junior year. He averaged 13.1 points and 6.8 rebounds in 28 games. He missed six games when he fractured his right foot in February.

Known as a defensive specialist, Singleton recorded a triple-double against North Carolina-Greensboro with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 steals. It was the 24th triple-double in ACC history - and the first with 10 or more steals.

Grunfeld said he was surprised that Singleton was still available with the 18th pick - and so was his new forward.

''To tell you the truth, I didn't expect me to be around that long,'' Singleton said in a conference call. ''I feel like my value is higher than where I got picked.''

Mack led Butler to consecutive NCAA championship games. The Bulldogs lost to Duke in 2010's final and Connecticut this year. The junior averaged 16 points last season. Grunfeld said that Mack will back up Wall at point guard.

''He played under the bright lights - the big stage,'' Grunfeld said.

The 21-year-old Vesely hit 71 percent of his shots from the field in Adriatic League games, but only 55 percent from the foul line.

''He's played at a high level,'' Saunders said. ''He's more ready to play than most Europeans.''

Representatives from the Czech Embassy were on hand for the Wizards' draft party at Verizon Center.

Vesely is the second international player taken by Washington in the first round. In 2006, they selected Ukrainian Oleksiy Pecherov, who did not live up to expectations.

Tagged: Wizards, John Wall

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