As a child growing up in the Czech Republic, Hana Vesela said she was always intrigued by America. From an early age, she wanted to learn the language and culture of the United States, and to partake in what some call ‘the American dream.’ So, when the opportunity arrived for Vesela to enter an exchange program during her junior year of high school, she took it. She moved over 5,000 miles away to the town of Brimley, Michigan.
“Before I came to the states, I was hoping for a big city, like the stuff you see on TV, like High School Musical,” Vesela said. “I was like, ‘Yeah! The high school is going to be just like that!’”
While the small town with a population of just over 1,000 was not exactly the ‘American dream’ Vesela had hoped for, it did have a high school basketball team. Over the next 10 months, Vesela picked up English while playing basketball and became fond of the small town.
“I think the small community really fit me because I need people to rely on,” Vesela said. “It was really nice to have a smaller community and to fit in quickly.”
Vesela dominated her time on the court in Brimley and was recognized as the Eastern Upper Peninsula League Player of the Year in 2013-14, catching the attention of several collegiate recruiters as a result.
“Michigan State was the biggest school to notice me,” Vesela said. “I kind of wanted to stay in Michigan to have some people I know from high school and to be close to my second home, so that was an easy decision to make.”
After returning to the Czech Republic to finish her senior year of high school, Vesela began her collegiate basketball career at Michigan State. During Vesela’s time as a Spartan, Michigan State made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The 6-foot-4 power forward averaged 7.4 minutes per game in her 39 appearances and averaged 2.8 points and 1.1 rebounds while shooting .458 overall as a sophomore.
However, Michigan State is not the only team Vesela played for. Vesela’s skillful knowledge of the game granted her an opportunity most athletes only dream of — to represent her national team at the 2016 FIBA European Championship in Podgorica, Montenegro.
“It was a really cool experience. You know, the pride and everything that comes with that, it’s really nice,” Vesela said. “There were only 12 girls representing the Czech Republic, so it was really special.”
While Vesela was enjoying her time at Michigan State, a couple factors led the player to consider transferring to a new school. While looking at different colleges, Vesela said her visit to Cal Poly was amazing. The facilities, coaching staff and location of the school all prompted Vesela to transfer to Cal Poly in 2018.
San Luis Obispo was more like the ‘American dream’ Vesela had been expecting.
“Everybody is jealous of me back home,” Vesela said. “There’s no snow, I can just walk around in a t-shirt in January.”
Since officially becoming a Mustang, Vesela has already made an immediate impact for Cal Poly Basketball. In her debut game, Vesela registered a team-high of 17 points and led the program to a 60-50 win over Seattle U. Since then, Vesela has averaged 28 minutes per game, solidifying her spot as one of the program’s top players.
With two games of conference play behind them, Vesela hopes to bring success to the program this season with her shooting potential and rebounding abilities.
“We’re hoping to win the [Big West Conference],” Vesela said. “It’s going to be a long season and we kind of have a new team, so now we’re getting the chemistry together. It’s fun to see how it’s developing, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Whether the Mustangs can pull off a Championship season or not, Hana Vesela is here, and she is here to stay.