Mateusz Ponitka is a 21 year old 197cm swing man that is playing his second season with Telenet BC Oostende (Belgium-Scooore League). He started his basketball career in 2008 with Kasprowiczanka Ostrow Wlk. He then played three seasons for Tempcold AZS Politechnika Warszawa (1Liga. IN 2012-2013, 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%. Last season he played for Telenet Oostende (Belgium-Ethias League, starting five): Eurocup: 15 games: 8.9ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 52.8%, 3PT: 35.5%, FT: 62.5%; Ethias League: 43 games: 9.7ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.2apg, Steals-5(1.6spg), FGP: 51.1%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 65.3%. He spoke to German Hoops before the eurocup game in Artland.
Welcome back to Germany. I saw you play in August with the Polish national team against Germany. Now your back playing with Ostende against the Artland Dragons in Eurocup play. How do you like the country Germany in general. After a strong season in Poland with Euroleague team Asseco you decided to play in Belgium now in your second season. Did you not have any offers from German teams?
I had some interest from some teams in Germany, but it is not something I want to discuss. I like Germany a lot. I live in Belgium now, but it is similar to Germany. The people are very friendly in Germany and the teams have a good organization. The league is very competitive a great place to play in.
How tough is it going from a Euroleague team and going back a step? How do you defend your decision. You played Euroleague, but Poland isn´t the highest level in Europe.
There were many reasons why I came to play for Oostende. The most important reason was the coach. After my first season in Oostende, I saw that I made steps here. I also came here because I heard very good things about the organization. Last season we almost made it to Euroleague so it wasn´t a waste of time at all. I am very happy to be playing for Oostende.
Telenet BC Oostende (Belgium-Score League) have started the season at 4-1. Are you happy with start?
We still haven´t found 100% to our game as it is the start of the season and we are making mistakes. We are still trying to find the same page. Our coach is doing a good job trying to make one piece. We are a young team and learning each day.
Telenet BC Oostende (Belgium-Score League started 0-2 in Eurocup play and need a win in Artland who are 1-1. What kind of game can we await and what will be key to getting your first win in Eurocup play?
I think that it will be a very physical game. We played them last year so we know their game. They have the advantage at home, but I think that both teams have a big chance to win.
You are playing your second season in Belgium after playing in your home country Poland before that. What are the main differences between leagues?
That is difficult to compare now because I haven´t played in Poland since the 2012-2103 season. Both leagues are ok, but there are more teams in Belgium playing Eurocup and Eurochallenge. The league in Belgium is more competitive and there are more teams that play at the same level. In Poland we have a couple of great teams and then also a couple of lower level teams. The young players in the Polish national team have done good work with their Polish club teams developing their game.
Last season you played with American Ryan Thompson that has made the next step and is playing for top German team Bamberg. He recently poured in 35 points in a game. Was he a type of role model for you last season as you will also want to make the next step sometime?
We played against each other each day in practice. We had nice positive basketball fights. He is definitely a role model for me. He took the next step and moved to Bamberg. He is a very good player. He has a big future in Europe and maybe even the NBA. I hope he reaches the NBA.
How tough was the 2012-2013 season where Asseco didn’t win their 10th league title in a row.
That season was a very strange situation with Asseco. The Euroleague experience was the greatest I have had, but during the season the team fell apart due to money issues. Day by day conditions got worse as players left. At the end we had 9 Polish players and one American. Sometimes we were playing with a 7 man rotation. We had no chance to fight for the title.
Currently in Belgium you are averaging 8.0ppg in 17 minutes per game. How would you define your role and what is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away?
I would say my defense. I compare what I did last season and I want to be more active on defense this season. It was a long summer for me and I am still finding my rhythm. I am just trying to help the team as much as possible. I obviously can shoot the ball, but on other days nothing may work. I focus on defense because it has to be consistent. That is most important as stats don´t show it.
Last summer you were a key player for the Polish national team. Head coach Mike Taylor lauded you of your play. How has Taylor taught you to understand the game of basketball better?
That was a great experience and I am looking forward to Eurobasket 2015. We didn´t have Marcin Gortat or Maciej Lampe and we did a great job advancing. Mike Taylor did a good job bring his basketball way and I liked be able to play with him who had D-league experience. He gave me a lot of trust and confidence and when I got it, I gave it back. I wasn´t oldest on the team, but young and he played me. I am thankful for that.
How proud are you of national team teammate Adam Waczynski for making the jump to Rio Natura Monbus Obradoiro CAB (Spain-Liga Endesa) He is 4 years older than you. Is this a direction that you would like to take?
Adam made a great choice. I am happy for him and his progression in life and basketball. He already has shown that Polish players are capable of playing there. It is great for Polish basketball that players are in Spain. For me well you never know. Life is unpredictable. It doesn´t matter if its Spain or Russia, each player is chasing the dream. Where my way will go only time will tell.
You are one of the biggest talents in Poland. How do you see the future of Polish basketball. Where are the future Marcin Gortats and Maciej Lampe´s?
The future of Polish basketball stands with the youth. Gortat and Lampe also were kids once and went their way. We need to follow in their steps, but just give all we have in each practice, game and in the summers and just prepare and step up and help build Polish basketball.
Who wins a one on one in practice you or American JP Prince?
We don´t play one on one, but moreover five on five. If we were to play one on one, I would try to find his weakness and take advantage of it.
How do you enjoy a relaxing off day in Ostende?
I usually spend time with my girlfriend. One can go to the beach, but I don´t recommend it when its cold. There are some things of entertainment like cinema and restaurants, but at the end of my off day it is back to work in the gym
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Grand Budapest Hotel. It is a nice comedy. I don´t watch movies as much, but more TV shows.
Thanks Mateusz for the chat.