Holešínská reflects on childhood tennis career


Cameron Krasucki

Petra Holešínská dribbles the ball against an Indiana defender at State Farm Center on Feb. 13.

By Claire O'Brien, Staff Writer

Illinois women’s basketball senior Petra Holešínská might be known for making threes on the basketball court, but she almost took her talents to the tennis court.

Holešínská started off playing tennis since her father enjoys tennis. His daughter didn’t enjoy the sport, however, and would rather shoot the ball into the hoop than serve the ball over the net.

“I hated (tennis),” Holešínská said. “I was like ‘Oh, like, I want to play basketball,’ (because) I’ve always liked it. He was like, ‘No, you’re not doing it,’ so I was just kind of like, ‘Well, I’m (gonna) do it.”

Her father eventually came around to the idea.

“I’m super stubborn, so he eventually got over it,” Holešínská said.

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Once Holešínská was able to play basketball, she emulated the late Kobe Bryant. She admired his playing style and would watch videos of Bryant with her friends.

But Bryant’s playing style wasn’t the only thing she remembers of him. In his later years, Bryant was a fierce advocate for women’s basketball and often spoke about how he enjoyed being a father to his four daughters.

When Bryant passed, #girldad trended on Twitter and the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team honored his late daughter, Gianna, who wanted to play basketball for their university when she grew up.

“I wore (his jersey) all the time,” Holešínská said. “Him fighting for women’s basketball the way he did was definitely really impressive and that’s, I feel like, why a lot of women players admire him a lot.”

As Holešínská progressed in her basketball career, she began to realize she could play basketball in the United States and attended a sports-oriented boarding school about an hour’s drive from her hometown.

That’s when Holešínská crossed paths with former Illinois basketball player Jenna Smith. They were playing for the same basketball program in Brno, Czech Republic, where Holešínská attended boarding school and the two have stayed in touch.

Smith lobbied Holešínská to go to Illinois, and Holešínská visited in December of her final year of high school. Her father went on the tour as well, and soon had the same opinion as Smith.

“I really liked the place, the people,” Holešínská said. “I came (to visit Illinois) with my dad, and he was like, ‘Yeah, you should definitely come here.’”

Coming to the United States, Holešínská found her English skills to be the most challenging part of relocating to Illinois.

“I knew some English, but it was like when I got here, I was like, ‘Oh my god, everyone’s speaking so fast,’” Holešínská said. “The coaches helped me a lot, the teammates, so it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was gonna be.”

At Illinois, Holešínská has found success on the court but not without some road bumps.

She missed last season with a torn ACL but was able to spend some extra time with family and friends. Despite being thousands of miles from home, she is close to her parents who come visit every year.

“We usually go to Chicago,” she said. “I just kind of, you know, want to show them around. Obviously the weather’s not great, so it’s not good, but it is what it is.”

Coming back to the court, she leads the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game and made her 150th career 3-pointer on Feb. 9, fifth in program history.

Holešínská has an extra year of eligibility because she sat out last year with an ACL tear. She isn’t sure if she’ll use it, but her parents plan to be in attendance for the Michigan State game Wednesday.

“They’re actually kind of redoing the senior night for me on the 26th since my parents are coming here,” Holešínská said. “(It will) be nice to actually walk out with them.”

When Holešínská finishes playing at Illinois, she wants to play in Europe and then settle in the United States. Her dream is to work for a professional sports team in a warmer locale.

“I’m getting my degree in marketing, so I would love to work for a professional team one day,” she said. “Obviously if it’s (in) a warmer place, that would be nice.”


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