Mateusz Ponitka is a 23 year old 196cm guard that is playing his first season for Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL). 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%. Last simmer he took part at the NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas (Denver Nuggets): 4 games: 2.5ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.3spg. The Polish player spoke to German Hoops before the Champions league game against the Fraport Skyliners, but is injured and didn´t make the trip.
Mateusz thanks for talking to German HoopsThis is now the third interview that your giving for the site after giving one two years ago when you were playing in Belgium and last summer when you were playing for the Polish national team. How is basketball life for you currently?
Life in total is good. I came to Turkey straight after Eurobasket Qualification and now its already 6 months I am here. Its really nice in Izmir. It’s a beautiful city with a lot of great places to visit. Basketball wise we have good team which can compete with anybody in the Turkish League and in Champions League. I got my role in the team so I am also happy about it. Fans are amazing ! Making great atmosphere during the games and supporting us everywhere we go. Club is well organized which is also very important.
2017 is here and one month has already passed. Did you set any new years resolutions for yourself or are you the type of guy that doesn´t bother with that?
No, its not my thing I guess. I prefer sticking to my plans which have been made years ago and from time to time do something spontaneously. No new year resolutions.
You continue to be a guy that chooses to move around after playing years in your home country Poland, then two years in Belgium and now playing your first season with Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL). I have been surprised you have not landed in Spain yet. Are you a guy that prefers to take it slower in picking teams and where you want to play?
For me the most important thing right now is to collect experiences and learn as much as its possible from every single day to become a better player. Before the season I had some different options but after I talked with people from my surrounding we choose Turkey. This is one of the best leagues in Europe right now and I got good chance to play significant minutes against best players in Europe. This is what I wanted. I am 23 now and I still have space for improvements in many aspects of my game. So I would say I am a guy who tries to go step by step.
The Turkish BSL is a rising league. What has been your impression of the league and would you agree that this is a league that continues to grow?
Definitely this is a very competitive well organized league. A lot of talented players this season and its great to have the chance to play against them. In every team you can find great players and in every game you have to give the maximum to win no matter if you play against 1st, 6th or 15th place. Level of the competition is high – 4 teams in Euroleague, 4 teams in Champions League and I think 2 or 3 in Fiba Europe Cup. It grows fast and its a pleasure to be part of it.
Currently Pinar Karsiyaka is in sixth place. What do you believe separates this team from the top teams in the Turkish league?
In this league you have few really big clubs and great players who play in Euroleague and Champions League. You really need to play a great game to beat those teams and sometimes you also need a little bit of luck. In Turkey everybody can win against everybody so many things can change before the season ends. Right now we are 6th but in couple of weeks can be better or also can be worse. We will see.
The club has played a very solid Basketball Champions League so far finishing in fifth place with a record of 9-5. What has been your overall impression of the new competitiion and how would you compare this league with the Eurocup level that you have played at in the past?
I think we could have been better this first round of Champions League but we lost some games at home and that cost us a first or second place. Champions League is a fresh project in its their first year and I think every year will be stronger. They will collect experiences just as players do so to the good level of the competition and organization the will be adding extras every year. Right now you can see some really good teams in it and some who came out during the season. It’s a great opportunity for clubs to compete against each other. Eurocup already have some experiences and years on the stage now Champions League will try to bulid their own name in Europe.
In the Champions League you defended very strongly as a team giving up only 68 points per game which was eighth best, but scored only 74 points per game. Do you feel as the club still hasn´t reached it´s potential on offense in this competition?
Believe me we can play impressive offense too. Example can be last game against Banvit where we scored 109 pts without overtime. That was an offensive game. I like when my team plays defense because many great coaches who won many championships used to say that Championships are winning with defense, rebounding and smart offense. We can play better in offense but I think the key is to keep playing good defense.
Pinar Karsiyaka now play a two game playoff series against the Fraport Skyliners. What kind of series can we await and what will be key to winning this series against a tough defensive series?
I think it can be a really nice series. Both teams are known in Europe. Frankfurt last year had a great season and we know this is a very dangerous team. I think also that everything can happen and we need to be ready for two really tough games where the margin of error will be really small.
You might be matched up against Quantez Robertson who is known as one of the top defenders in the German BBL. What is always the biggest challenge for you when going head to head against the best defender of a team?
To be honest for me the most important thing is to win the game. If I score 20 points or I don´t score at all I can help the team in different ways just to win the game. Of course its always additional motivation to play against the best defender of the opponent so if we will be matched up I will give my maximum.
Pinar Karsiyaka has some very talented Americans with ex NBA player Djuan Summer, Josh Owens Jcovan Brown and Mike Green. If you had to pick one player from these, which one of these players do you feel have you gained the most from their game so far this season?
I try to learn from everybody. Every player has something interesting in his game and litterally you can see how they preform, how they practice or how they behave and you can try to add it to your game. I am happy that I have opportunity to play with those guys. Its a great lesson.
Your holding your own as your second in scoring in the Turkish league and first in steals and third in rebounding in the Basketball Champions League for your team. What is your role this season for this team and how is it different than last season in Poland?
I am trying to do whatever coach wants me to. I am not the guy who will take ball and try score every time, but I like it better when team play together, wins and then I can be part of the success. Stats don´t matter at this point. In the end of the day nobody remembers that you were top scorer of the last team in the league. Only winners are remembered. This year it´s a little bit different role for me in the team. Last year I was the go to guy in Zielona Gora now I am one of many guys who can carry the team. Different situation, different experience, different lesson.
Last summer you played played NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas (Denver Nuggets): 4 games: 2.5ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.3spg.You played with very talented players like Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley or Darius Carter not too mention Jimmer Fredette. What do you believe separates you from the NBA at this point in time?
In my opinion first of all we are from different schools of basketball. They prefer American style of basketball based on NBA and NCAA. I am a European style of basketball player. So for sure I need time to adapt to their system and style. There are many details that makes it different out there.
Was the NBA Summer league a one time experience for you and your resume or do you still have aspirations of trying for the NBA in the future?
For now I don´t think about NBA and Summer Leagues. I am thankful for the Denver Nuggets and for chance and opportunity but I am also thankful for where I am now . I know there is still a lot of work ahead of me and I am focused on it. If you think to much about the future you don´t live in the present. And for me present is the most important.
You are only 23 years old even though it feels like you have been around for ages as you already played Euroleague at age 19. What current goals do you have as a player and how much more can your game still develop?
My goal is to play at the highest level. Last year I played Euroleague my second season and I think we as a team and me personally did well. I will be working hard to get on this level and I am aware that I need to work even harder to stay there but as I said in the beginning – step by step. As you said I am 23 so I am at the beginning of my career. I can improve in every aspect of the game. I will do my best to be remembered.
You played against German Paul Zipser last season with Poland. He has made the jump to the NBA and at the moment is getting good playing time. Is he a guy that can stay in the NBA or moreover a guy like Tibor Pleiss that won´t make the real breakthrough in the NBA?
I think Paul has chance to stay there. He is very good athlete with a great touch. I think he has very good chance to stay. It´s better for European basketball when more Europeans play in the best league of the world.
Lebron finally brought an NBA title to the Cavs. Where does he stand at the moment in the never ending debate with where he stands as the best of all-time?
I think number one will never change no matter what. But second or third place is open and personally I see him there.
Where do you rank Kevin Garnett with the best power forwards that ever played the game?
Probably somewhere between Dirk, Tim and Pau.
Klay Thompson recently hit 60 points in 29 minutes touching the ball for only 90 seconds. Where does this performance rank with you?
Its really impressive. It shows team basketball which Golden State plays. They use him really well.
One always talks about Lebron and Curry, but one has to mention Russell Westbrook. He is averaging triple double stats at the moment. Is he stat wise the best player in the world right now?
If you average triple double what can be a better stat ? Quadruple double but it´s not too many of them last decades. So I would say yes he is averaging best numbers on the world.
What was the last movie that you saw?
In the heart of the sea.
Thanks Mateusz for the chat.