Mateusz Ponitka is a 22 year old 196cm guard that is currently with the Polish national team and playing at the Super Cup in Ulm against teams like Germany, Russia and Finnland. He will play for Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL) this season. He started his basketball career in 2008 with Kasprowiczanka Ostrow Wlk. He then played three seasons with Tempcold AZS Politechnika Warszawa (1Liga). In the 2012-2013 season he made the jump to Asseco Prokom Gdynia (PLK): 34 games: 8.7ppg, 4.2rpg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 27.2%, FT: 70.7%; Euroleague: 10 games: 8.8ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.0spg, FGP: 61.0%, 3PT: 32.3%, FT: 38.1%. He then played two seasons with Telenet BC Oostende (Belgium-Scooore League). Last season he played for Stelmet Zielona Gora (TBL): 41 games: 10.5ppg, 5.2rpg, 2.7apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 61.8%, 3PT: 38.3%, FT: 76.1%; Euroleague: 10 games: 12.0ppg, Reb-3(7.9rpg), 2.2apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 57.7%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 67.6%; Eurocup: 10 games: 13.5ppg, 6.5rpg, 2.1apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 58.8%, 3PT: 47.6%, FT: 69.4%. Recently he took part at the NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas (Denver Nuggets): 4 games: 2.5ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.3spg. He spoke to German Hoops during the Super Cup weekend in Ulm.
Mateusz thanks for talking to eurobasket.com. Welcome back to Germany. You are currently in Ulm preparing for the games in the Super Cup with team Poland. You were in Germany last at the start of 2016 in Ludwigsburg playing Eurocup with Stelmet. You led your team to the win scoring 14 points. What other memories do you have of this game?
That was very tough game for us. I remember the whole game was like one big war. In the end of the day we found a way to win and that was really important one for us. To be honest that was even funny because in Eurocup we were wining everything on the road and losing everything at home. And all this streak started in Ludwigsburg. I think there is very good atmosphere at the games in Germany. I like coming here.
Team Poland arrive to Ulm having played exhibition games against Iceland, Slovenia and Austria. How has the early preparation period gone for Poland leading up to the 2016 European qualifying games in a few weeks?
We are trying to get ready for those most important games which starts on 31st of august. We played 5 games until now and each of them was a great opportunity to catch the rhythm, find out which sets and which rosters are the best for us. So I would say that we are slowly getting ready for to have the best performances during the eliminations.
Team Poland will play against Russia, Germany and Finland in three days. This will be a real test for every team. On paper which of these opponents would you say will be the most difficult to battle?
All of those teams have great players in their rosters. Many NBA, Euroleague and experienced guys so you can´t tell that this or that team will win this tournament. I think everyone can beat everyone and that is why this tournament will be so exciting and fun to watch.
Poland has a lot in common with Germany when comparing the misfortune of the 2015 European championships where both countries played well, but lost some tough close games. What do you feel did Poland as a team learn from their experience at the European championships from last summer?
I think for us it was great step ahead. We got a great Coach Mike Taylor, assistantss and players plus our federation is doing everything to provide the best conditions for us to practice and play. We have a young team with few older guys who are shearing their experience with us. Thanks to that are growing as a team and as a players. We will do everything to be better and better every year.
At the 2015 European championships you were a starter that logged 29 minutes per game averaging 9,3ppg, 4,0rpg and 3,7apg. You are a guy that fills up the stats sheet and is so valuable in many aspects of the Poland game, but could you have been more of a scoring threat than what you were last summer?
If coach want me to I will be. But I am not going to force anything. You won´t see me shooting the ball from 8 meters in first 5 seconds of the 24 shot clock. For me the most important is winning and you can be the best player on the court not scoring a point. I don´t have a problem to score points but winning is the thing I am looking for the most. Also you can be able to know how to score 30 points in the game but it is not the same if you don´t know how to win the game.
Team Poland still has much scoring power with guys like AJ Slaughter and Maciej Lampe as well as others. Does head coach Mike Taylor have the same kind of role for you like last summer or has your role changed now?
Like you said in previous question I am trying to be as versatile as its possible because then I can fit to every basketball system. Mike knows me very well and he knows that whatever he will need me to do he will get it. I am working very hard to be an all around player and national team is a great place for me to develop those skills.
You and Tomaz Gielo are among the youngest on the team. How much potential does your teammate Gielo have who just finished his college career at Mississippi? Does he have the game to follow into the foot steps of an Aaron Cel?
He has great potential and he is able to play. Now when Aaron is not here Gielo has a chance to prove that he can be a good player when important games will come.
In the 2016 European qualification games, Poland will play against Portugal, Belarus and Estonia. Poland seems the favorite. How focused and on the ground is team Poland not to get too overconfident with the task at hand?
We are focusing on us. We don´t over think, but we are just locked in on our team and on our game. We can beat great teams when we are focused on ourselves..
Head coach Mike Taylor has developed nicely as a coach and is now in his third summer with Poland. He is a strong supporter of your game. What further step do you feel have you taken this summer with your game through the guidance of him?
We know each other for three years now and we know what to expect from each other. I learned a lot from him. He is a big time professional and his attitude and approach is awesome. He gives me this positive motivation to work every day. Great coach and great person.
The Dick Nowitzki era is over, but team Germany is filled with NBA players like Dennis Schroeder, Tibor Pleiss and Paul Zipser as well as many other talented players like Daniel Theis, Madao Lo etc. Do you see Germany being able to make an impact at the next European championships?
I think Germany is in similar situation to us. The generation is changing and know it´s time for young blood to achieve something. I am sure they will be hungry and of course with such a talented team they are able to achieve something more than advancing from the group stage. I wish them that.
Let´s talk a bit about your game. The last time I interviewed you you were playing for Ostende of Belgium. You were the third best rebounder in the Euroleague last season. Do you feel like last season was your real break out season?
I think that was a great choice for me to come back for this one year to Poland and play in Euroleague and Eurocup. I had a great coach with Saso Filipovski who believed in me and who gave me an opportunity to spend precious time on the court. That gave me confidence and good performances. I think it was a good season for me.
Your shooting seems to continue to be a work in progress, but you did shoot 47% from outside in the Eurocup last season. Do you feel like you can be a consistent shooter at 40%?
This is why I am working before and after practices. I know I still got a lot space to improve in every segment of my game and I am trying to work hard on it. I believe also that my work will pay off and I will be the best player I can be.
Recently you played NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas (Denver Nuggets): 4 games: 2.5ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.3spg. What kind of experience was this for you and what separates you from the NBA?
It was a great 3 weeks I spent in USA. Having an opportunity to play and practice with the best players in the world is something you can´t compare to anything else. I received great feedback and I know what I have to work on if I want to play there on day. We will see if that will happen.
One of the assistant coaches was Chris Fleming who is team Germany coach. Did you have any special interaction with him and what really stood out in his coaching?
I think he was not there when I was.
You played with many talented guys like Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley or Darius Carter not too mention Jimmer Fredette. What teammate impressed you most on your team?
Believe me all of them are great players. I was really happy that I could play against and with them. I hope they will make great careers in NBA and one day I will tell my grandsons that I played with those NBA stars.
This season you will be playing for Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL). How excited are you to be playing in the Turkish league and will you be able to get your share of buckets with the many talented Americans that will be on board?
I can´t wait to get there to play for this team and those fans. They are amazing and I didn´t get there yet and they already are cheering for me and waiting for the season. I think this is the best choice and the best way for me for now. Turkish League is one of the strongest if not the strongest in Europe and its going be a great challenge for me to compete against all those great players.
Now that Lebron finally brought an NBA title home, where does this further ring put him in the debate against Michael Jordan as the all-time best ever?
I respect LeBron but Michael is Michael – he will always be the greatest of all time. No doubt.
If you had to construct an NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you choose?
Michael, Kobe, LeBron and Shaq
What was the last movie that you saw?
Yesterday I watched Creed.
Thanks Mateuz for the chat.