WCIA — Spending the first 22 years of his life in the United States, Czech Republic basketball player Blake Schilb had a weird feeling when he played Team USA in the World Cup two years ago.
“Before the first time we played, I was a little nervous,” Schilb said during a Zoom call from Tokyo recently. “Actually a lot. This time I’m going out there to compete for real.”
The Rantoul native will get his second go at his home country, this time in the Olympics. Team USA faces Czech Republic Saturday morning at 7 a.m. CT on Peacock. It’s a potential elimination game, with the winner advancing to the knockout round.
The 37-year old has carved out a more than decade long career that started in the Rantoul High School gym. But after some off-court issues his Senior year, Schilb was suspended from the team.
“There were some troubles,” he said. “I was just an adolescent, going through some things and made some mistakes and learned from it. I had some very important people reach out to me, give some advice, and steer me in the right direction.”
Schilb finished his degree at a prep school, then graduated from Loyola-Chicago before starting his pro career in the Czech Republic at Nymburk, where he met his wife. The 6-foot-7 forward played in four different countries in his career but the Czech Republic head coach came to him with an idea; applying for dual-citizenship to be able to get a spot on the national team.
“Where Czech Republic basketball has come in these last six, seven years, and to be able to be a part of that, is something that we can really be proud about,” Schilb said.
Schilb helped take the Czech Republic to its first Olympics and World Cup. Through the journey, he’s also been proud to represent Central Illinois the whole way.
“Me being where I come from (Rantoul), they can feel a part of the Olympics and feel connected to it,” he added. “I think that’s what’s most important when I look at the picture as a whole.”
Schilb is unsigned for the upcoming pro season but says if the right opportunity comes up, he’s ready to keep playing.