Mateusz Ponitka is a 23 year old 196cm guard that will be playing his first season with Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias (Spain-Liga Endesa) and currently is playing with the polish national team. Last season he played with Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL) playing 27 games averaging 13.7ppg, 4.9rpg, 2.3apg, Steals-4(1.7spg), FGP: 60.3%, 3PT: 29.7%, FT: 70.8%; BCL: 19 games: 10.8ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.7apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 50.5%, 3PT: 36.7%, FT: 70.7%. 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 gave German Hoops his fourth interview before the Super Cup weekend in Hamburg
Thanks Mateusz for talking to German Hoops again. Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been?
Right now I am at the airport as we are heading to Hamburg with national team to play tournament against Germany Serbia and Russia. My summer was pretty long because we finished season early in Turkey and I had a lot of time for rest and practice. So the first 10 days was holidays and then 1,5 month individual work.
You have been preparing for Euro 2017 with the Polish team the last weeks. The club beat the Czech Republic twice, split with Latvia and lost to Lithuania. How content have you been with the preparation of the club so far?
We are working hard since the 15th of July. Training camp and now friendly games so basically my season already started. We are practicing really hard the last few weeks and in those friendly games our performances are different. We are in a good spot and we are looking forward to finish preparation to start the real battles in Eurobasket.
When looking at the current roster that still will be trimmed down to 12 for the Euro 2017, one doesn´t see much change except that there is no Marcin Gortat and no Maciej Lampe. How will the 2017 Euro roster be different and better than last summer´s?
Maciej Lampe is with us and he will play in tournament in Hamburg. We are trying to quickly put him in our system. He is very talented and experienced player so his help is priceless. Marcin finished career in national team so we can´t count on him anymore. Last summer we won our qualification group because we built collectiveness. This year we will try to do the same thing.
There will be many players left from Euro 2016. You will have vetearans Damian Kulig and Aaaron Cel on board. How much stronger will Poland be this summer?
Every player witht such an experience like Damian and Aaron is for us big help. So basically we are happy that we can count on them. Both can really improve our game and make a big impact on the score.
Poland will have their real first test this weekend in Hamburg at the Super Cup. How excited are you to be heading back to Hamburg where you played at the U-17 world championships in 2010?
I have been there many times and its always going be great place for me. Memories are coming back very quickly. For me personally that was a great tournament and to be honest my career started form there. It all started from the silver medal in Hamburg and now we are here. So it will be a hard tournament for us playing against the best teams in Europe but also great test. We are looking forward to competiting with all three teams and to check at which point we are now.
What memories do you have of the U-17 World Championships in Hamburg. You were the second top scorer of the tournament averaging 19,0ppg. What players do you remember form that tournament that now belong to the best in the world?
I remember everything like it was yesterday. All games we played and of course the final against USA. I remember all them big players who are now playing in NBA or in Euroleague. Too many to count them but that was a great tournament with a lot of talented players.
You face Germany on Saturday whom you lost to the last two seasons. NBA players Dennis Schroeder and Daniel Thesis will join the team for the Super Cup. How confident are you that Poland will be able to win this game considering Poland has had the core of it´s team together longer?
I think the German team is always well prepared and well organized. I know Dennis and Daniel and I know how big of an impact they can have on the team. So I think Germany will be very strong especially playing at home. We are ready to play against everybody and hungry to compete with the best teams.
How have you followed the development of German basketball in the last year. Dennis Schroeder continues to get better, Paul Zipser made it to the Chicago Bulls, Daniel Thesis was signed by the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Hartenstein was drafted by the Houston Rockets. Germany was also fifth at the U-19 World Championships. Is it just a momentary run or do you see German basketball continuing to develop better?
Germany have a great basketball system and they take care of their youth players. Taking care of the development of young players is very important and this has to bring some progress. As you see – more and more players from Germany are going to the NBA and young players are always high in standings of youth competition. With that good system German basketball is developing.
Poland is in a tough Group A with France, Greece, Slovenia, Finland and Iceland. This will be a real battle for the fourth and final spot. What will be vital for Poalnd to do on the court to help them advance?
We have to play as a team and compete against every team on 100% of our abilities. Its a hard group but we are not without chances to advance. We will do our best to make some surprises and win games we have to win.
How vital will the consistency and good play of AJ Slaughter be for the success of Poland? How is your relationship to him. Do you ever give him advice or do you see him having a big Euro 2017?
AJ adapted really well to our team and our system. He is very important player for us and we count on his good performances at Eurobasket. I think you don´t need to give him any advice as he is anexperienced player, he played in many good clubs around Europe and he excatly knows what to do to play good.
Poland has a lot of veteran players on the team this summer, but not as many young players. What is the state of Polish basketball concerning it´s youth. What young players on the team do you see making the next step in the next years?
Ok I see you don´t consider me as a young player anymore. I think experience is very important on a tournament like Eurobasket. We have some young players who will be very helpful in the next few years. Right now is 4 players from the 93 generation in the team and we are looking forward for some youngsters to come and join us when they will be ready.
What has been your impression of young guard Andy Maturczak that played in the NCAA and last season as a rookie in Greece and this season will play in Germany with Chemnitz. He probably won´t make the 2017 Euro 2017 roster, but how bright is his future and what do you like most about his game?
I think he is a very smart player. He got feeling for basketball especially as a point guard. Also he is very cool and focused on basketball. I think he can really help us at some point and he will play good in the German league. Every year he will be better and I wish him all the best for his career.
In our last interview you stated that Tomasz Gielo has the potential to make the next step. Last summer Aaron Cel wasn´t on the team, but is back this summer. Do you see the hard head to head competition making Gielo even stronger these weeks leading up to the Euro 2017?
For sure its great chance for him to improve. He is around good, experienced players and no matter how long he will play this situation is perfect for him to develop.
Last summer you said this about Polish national team coach Mike Taylor “. 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”. After another year of seeing more basketball and having more experiences, how has coach developed further in the last year that you have seen the last weeks?
I know him for last 4 years and I know how hard he is working to prepare us to the Eurobasket. He is everything I said last year plus one more year of experience. I really like playing for him and probably not only me. He refreshed our national team, brought positive energy and taught us how to become the best versions of ourselves.
Let´s talk about your game in the Polish national team. Last summer I asked you what your role would be and you stated “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 averaged 15,3ppg at Euro 2016. How will head coach Mike Taylor want to use you this summer best so Poland has the most success?
Similar to last year. I will try to do everything its need to be done to win the games. Simple as that.
A quote that I have kept in my head in the last year was this. “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”. You definitely know how to win having won titles in Belgium and in Poland. Do you feel like you can transform your winning genes to your teammates this summer?
I think we have good potential and many players who won something during their careers so probably it´s not going be needed that much. I won 2 championships in Belgium and 2 in Poland but you can´t compere it to playing at Eurobasket its different competition and its much harder to win something out there.
Last season you had a very solid season with Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BS) playing: 27 games averaging 13.7ppg, 4.9rpg, 2.3apg, Steals-4(1.7spg), FGP: 60.3%, 3PT: 29.7%, FT: 70.8%; In the BCL you played 19 games averaging 10.8ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.7apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 50.5%, 3PT: 36.7%, FT: 70.7%. You were a Turkish allstar, reached the Champions League quarterfinals and Turkish cup semi final. You weren´t the go to guy like the year before, but a guy among many that had a significant role. How did your game prosper most last season that will help you make the next step this season with Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias (Spain-Liga)?
I learned a lot last season. As you pointed out my role was different and I tried to help my team in different ways. Like I said last year I am trying to adapt to every system you put me into so also in the Karisyaka system I found my role and tried to be the best at this particular role. I hope every next season will prepare me better for playing a solid role in the best teams in Europe. This is my goal for next years – to get ready for being an important player in a Euroleague team rotation. And Iberostar Tenerife is a great environment for me to do it.
What kind of a feeling is it for you going to Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias (Spain-Liga) who won the 2017 Basketball Champions League? Here it will be similar to last season in Turkey where there will be many talented players that can score. What part of your game do you feel will translate best to the style of the Endesa league?
I have never played in Spanish league before but it was always my dream. So now I am ready for every next challenge. I am really looking forward to start competing at this level. I know we have many good players in the team but I also have my experiences and I will try to use them as well. I hope this will be a great season for all the team not only me and that we can do something special.
You continue to develop as a player and after playing in Poland, Belgium and Turkey, you have reached the biggest league in Europe Endesa in Spain at age 23. Do you feel any pressure possibly in a few years having to be the guy that will take the torch from guys like Marcin Gortat and Maciej Lampe and be the guy keeping Polish basketball move forward?
I don´t feel any pressure. Pressure comes when you are not ready for the challenge. And I will be working hard every day to be ready and accept all those challenges life will put in front of me. Success with the Polish national team is very important to me and I take it personally. I want to do something special with this group of people. That´s why we are working so hard every day.
You recently played against New York Knick Kristaps Porzingis. He has had a very good NBA career so far. Do you see him becoming the next best European in the NBA after a Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol or is a guy like Nikola Jokic on a better way?
Definitely Kristaps is franchise player. He showed many times his talent and ability to play on the highest level for many years. I believe he can achieve a lot in his career when he will be healthy and that´s my wish for him.
What was the last movie that you saw?
I rarely watch movies I prefer reading books.
Thanks Mateusz for the chat.