By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Tomas Satoransky regards his expected move from Barcelona to the NBA's Washington Wizards to provide him with the greatest challenge of his career, the Czech guard told Reuters.
The versatile 24-year-old, who can perform either as a playmaker or a point guard, confirmed he was on the verge of moving across the Atlantic after a seven-year spell in Spain.
"We have a verbal agreement, it's not official yet," Satornasky said after the Czechs suffered a shock 71-59 reverse to Latvia at an Olympic qualifying tournament in the Serbian capital on Tuesday.
"We will see when this tournament is over but it's a challenge I have always looked forward to."
After five years at Sevilla, Satoransky joined Barcelona in 2014 and quickly drew attention with impressive performances in the Euroleague, the continent's premier club competition.
Averaging 9 points and 4.3 assists per game last season, he helped the Catalan giants reach the Euroleague playoffs after winning the 2015 Spanish Supercup with them.
"It was my path to play for one of the biggest clubs in Europe," he said. "It's very challenging to play in a high-pressure environment, but it gave me a lot."
Satoransky acknowledged it was only going to get tougher in the NBA, where many European players have struggled to adapt to the exertions of the world's premier basketball league.
"It's never easy for a European going to the NBA, especially for playmakers and point guards, but that's the position I wanted to be in," he said.
"It would mean so much to play alongside the likes of (Wizards point guard) John Wall, as one can only benefit from being on the same roster with such great players."
Should the Czechs qualify for the Aug. 5-21 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Satoransky will have yet another opportunity to impress the watchful NBA scouts.
However, judging by the Czech Republic's poor start in the qualifying tournament, it could be a tall order for Satoransky and his team mates.
"First we have to beat Japan (later on Wednesday) to stay in contention and that won't be easy," he said.
"If we do, we are looking at a probable semi-final against tournament hosts and favorites Serbia, but if we want to get to Rio, we now have to beat everyone standing in our way."
The last three Olympic basketball berths are being contested by 18 teams at three qualifying tournaments in Belgrade, Turin and Manila.
The winners of each tournament will qualify for the Games, joining hosts Brazil, United States, Spain, Lithuania, Argentina, Nigeria, Venezuela, China and Australia.
(Editing by John O'Brien)