It all came at Jakub Dombek at a dizzying speed. College life. American culture. The homesickness. The food. And, not least of all, the basketball.
The glut of information was overwhelming at times for Dombek, who spent the 2018-19 basketball season as a redshirt prospect with the Colorado Buffaloes. The learning curve was a steep one for the 6-foot-11 forward from the Czech Republic, who dealt with illness, a minor ankle injury, and the general life trials of being half a world away from home while growing acclimated to CU as well as life inside head coach Tad Boyle’s program.
“It was tough, but I’ve got great teammates. I’m lucky I had great teammates who helped me all season long,” Dombek said. “I feel better with everything, to be honest. I’m stronger, which was the biggest problem last season. I can play with the guys in the post, which I wasn’t able to do before. At the beginning of the season I was struggling from the 3-point line and that improved during the season.
“What I still have to work on is my post move. I don’t want to be a big man who they can switch (defensively) and they don’t have to be scared of in the post. I’m quick, I can shoot, but I have to work on my post moves.”
The most imperative chore for Dombek since he arrived last fall at about 190 pounds was to add bulk to his lanky frame. On that front, Dombek’s progress was a mixed review. He reports that he has indeed grown to the 205 to 207-pound range, but the daily workouts of running up and down the court at practice combined with a bout with mono last fall that sapped a significant chunk of Dombek’s frame stunted some of that progress. The upcoming late spring and summer months in the weight room will be critical for Dombek.
Dombek traveled with the team for much of the first half of the season, with Boyle wanting Dombek to experience the full gamut of what college basketball entails, but he settled into the routine of working out on campus while the Buffs traveled through the bulk of the Pac-12 Conference schedule.
As he gets set to compete for rotation minutes in the fall, Dombek will join a crowded and proven CU frontcourt. With 7-footer Dallas Walton set to return from a torn ACL that cost him the entire 2018-19 campaign, Dombek still needs to improve his toughness and scoring ability inside in order to gain minutes alongside Evan Battey, Lucas Siewert, and Tyler Bey.
“Jakub I think had a good year,” Boyle said. “I think he learned a lot. The speed of the game, I think he adjusted to that as the season wore on. Showed some really bright flashes at practice at times. It was a rough year for Jakub just in terms of the fact that shortly after he got here he got mono. He lost 15 pounds that he couldn’t afford to lose. So he had to recover from that. He had a twisted ankle at one point in the season and got sick again towards the end of the season.
“Overall, he got a chance to see up close what college basketball at this level is all about. Until you go through it — and I feel it was the same for Evan, it was the same for Dallas and other big guys — until you go through the season and you’re actually out on the floor playing in games, you still don’t know 100 percent what you’re in for. There’s a learning curve he will go through, but he’s 6-foot-11, he runs the floor, he’s skilled, he’s athletic. I’m encouraged about him.”