Mateusz Ponitka (Lokomotiv Kuban) Playing For Lok Kuban Is One Of The Biggest Challenges In My Life

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Mateusz Ponitka in 2018 in Frankfurt after a Lok Kuban 92-69 win in Eurocup play

Mateusz Ponitka is a 25 year old 196cm guard that is playing his first season with Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia-VTB). Last season he played with Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias (Spain-Liga ACB) and played 33 ACB games averaging 13.6ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 62.1%, 3PT: 27.3%, FT: 78.4%;and played 16 BCL games averaging 11.1ppg, 3.8rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 59.0%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 80.0%. 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) playing 34 games averaging 8.7ppg, 4.2rpg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 27.2%, FT: 70.7%; and played 10 Euroleague games averaging 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), a season with  Stelmet Zielona Gora (TBL) and a season with Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL). He spoke to germanhoops.com before the Eurocup game against the Fraport Skyliners.

Mateusz thanks for talking to germanhoops.comWelcome to Frankfurt. Two years ago you didn´t make the trip for a BCL game against the Fraport Skyliners. Is this your first time in Frankfurt? What does the city and it´s basketball mean to you?

First time in the city so I cant say anything about it.

In the last six years you have played many times against German teams in international club competition against Alba Berlin, Ludwigsburg and Artland to name just a few. Could you guess if you have a positive or negative all-time record against these teams?

I know I lost once to Alba and once to Ludwigsburg for sure but I believe it´s positive

I will help you. You have a very respectable positive record of 10-3. What do you believe has been your secret to having so much success against German teams?

I don´t know if there is some secret. German teams most of the time play very physical and tough. I like those  kinds of games. Plus many times we are coming during the summer with the national team to Germany so there were already few places I played. Unfortunately Frankfurt is my first time.

What is your most memorable game against a German team? I remember you winning a tight 84-82 affair against the Artland Dragons.

Against the German national team is when we won in Torun by one point and then when we won in Bonn in qualifications to Eurobasket. We played a great game there in Bonn. Against one of German teams I remember our win in Euroleague against ALBA when I was with Prokom and I remember games in Ludwigsburg from Eurocup and Champions League. I got injured last year there

We have done 4 interviews together and this is our fifth. The last one was in the summer of 2017 when you were playing with the Polish national team. Now  your playing with Lok Kuban. What kind of experience has it been playing with a Russian organization. Has it been very much different to playing with a Turkish or Spanish team?

Every country has their own style. Two years ago I was with Karsiyaka where the organization and fans will always be in my heart. The same last year in Tenerife many great people and organization of the club was in the highest level, also the quality of living was perfect and there was a great atmosphere there. Now I am With Lok Kuban and this is one of the biggest challenges in my life. Playing with such good and experienced players and being a part of one of Europe´s top organizations was always my dream. Everything is well managed here and I believe we as a team can do something special this season.

 

Lok Kuban has always built very competitive teams in the last years. This season´s is very strong again. What is the club´s biggest strength and can it compete with a CSKA Moscow for a title or is that a bit unrealistic?

I think we have a lot of talent on the team. On each position we have great players who proved themselves on the highest European and world levels. CSKA is on of the best teams for the last decades in Europe so it´s always tough to play them. But like I said I love challenges and I believe in my team. I hope we can fight with CSKA in the second round of VTB.

You lost the first game to CSKA Moscow 93-76. That team has so many great players. If you pick one player from that team that you could watch for hours and just soak up as much as possible who would it be? Possibly a Kyle Hines?

I like few of CSKA players. De Colo, Rodriguez, Higgins and Clyburn are the guys I like to watch and learn from.

You played for the very demanding coach Sasa Obradovic this season. How much of a challenge was that and what positives could you pick up from his coaching style?

I like demanding coaches. For this short period of time when Sasa was here I had an opportunity to learn a lot from him. He was very professional and always ready for different scenarios. He knows the game very well because he was a player himself. It was a pleasure to work with him. Now Vlada Jovanovic is our coach and I believe I can learn from him a lot also.

How much of a delight and beneficial has it been playing with 10 year NBA veteran Dorell Wright? You have so much experience at age 25, but what things have you tried to pick up from his game this season to help make your game even better?

First of all Dorell is a great guy. You can always talk to him about any concerns. I like to listen to stories about NBA when he was there and I like to watch him play. He is very confident and very talented. Like you said it´s a big opportunity for me to learn from him and Vitaliy Fridzon

Let´s talk about your game. Your only 25, but at times one could think that you are already 30 simply because you have played the last 7 years international club play and averaged 8,8ppg in the Euroleague as a 19-20 year old. Are you going through a special development that many 25 year old´s don´t get to see simply because you already played at the highest level as a teenager?

When I was younger I always wanted to play European competitions so before every season my goal was to be in the team which plays in Europe. It´s a great showcase for every player to play in Euroleague, Eurocup or Champions League. And I think it´s always better to gain experience on the floor playing against better opponents during games than just practicing and watching games from the bench. I was lucky that I had great coaches who believed me and I had the possibility to play in European competitions. It´s harder for young guys to play in Europe every year.

 

You have been unbelievably consistent in the last three seasons averaging in double figures for three different teams in all competitions. How pleased have you been with your development and where do you want to it to keep going in the future?

I always try to do my best and be honest to myself and my game. I believe if you give 100% every game good things will happen. I am not a player who will take crazy shots or force plays for myself. I like to do everything on the court, share the ball with others and I love to win. Stats are not on the first place for me. Wins are

You have always had distinct roles with each team you have played for. What exactly is your role with Lok Kuban. This seems to be a club that isn´t necessarily so reliable on your scoring abilities as much as teams needed you in other years? It seems like you are valuable in other areas for Lok Kuban?

Like I said. I proved too many people that I can score on many ways but now I am on a team which needs different things from me. Of course if I have a good day and the ball finds me, I can make points but being good on defense, take rebounds, steals, assists or help my teammates in different ways makes me just as happy. I played in all good leagues in Europe and I did good so now it´s time for winning with the team.

In our last interview you stated “My role for the next years is to get ready for being an important player in a Euroleague team rotation” Last season you functioned well with Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias. With another good year now with Lok Kuban, could that next Euroleague team be next season?

I dont know what will future bring but Euroleague is definitively my goal. I would finally like to be a part of it. Tenerife was great. I will always remember that season. I never dreamed about being named to second five in Liga Endesa. That was a big success for me and it happened thanks to Canarias my teammates, managment, coaches and fans who I will be grateful for life.

Last season your dream came through playing in the ACB with Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias.This was the best league you ever played in. How beneficial was it playing in this league for your game? In what area did your game profit the most from the competitiveness of the league?

It was a great experience for me. I saw many great teams and players. I also learned a lot from many guys in the team and league. I believe I will come back at some point of my career to ACB if some team will be interested. It was an amazing time for me and my family.

Last season you had a massive 26 point 10 rebound game in a huge 93-91 win against FC Barcelona. Where does this game rank in your all-time best personal performances as a professional?

That was the best game in my life and one of the saddest days also. My grandfather died one hour before the match started. That was very emotional evening for me. I will never forget December 10th,  2017.

 

Last season you played 4 times against Real Madrid and lost each game. You were able to play against Luka Doncic. Whenever you hear his name now when he makes another new NBA headlines, what flashes in your mind about your memory playing against him on the court?

His step back. Amazing player one of the bestIi ever played against. Hope to see him again in the future.

Poland at the moment has a 7-3 record in World Cup qualifying. How is the team shaping up overall for the upcoming World Cup. How has polish basketball continued to develop further in this competition?

We need one more win to get to the world cup for the first time in 52 years. For us is something really big. Especially I am happy that Mike Taylor is doing it with us. I am thankful to him that he believed in me when I was young and now we can achieve something special together. Every year we are getting better and more experienced. I believe our time will come soon.

You said this in our last interview about head coach Mike Taylor in the summer of 2017. “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”. The last years he didn´t have double duty as a club coach, but at the moment is coaching Pro A team Hamburg Towers who are in second place. In what ways is his double duty function a positive for the Polish national team?

I think its positive. He is working on his own team so he can bring some new ideas to the national team and he is developing as a coach. Thats good for him and good for us. Having a coach who wants to improve his game is a win win situation for everybody in Poland.

If you had to pick your personal favorite starting five of teammates over the years which players would you chose?

Too many of great players hard to pick top 5

What is your personal opinion about the never ending debate of who is the greatest between Michael Jordan and Lebron James?

Michael Jordan is my favourite but Lebron is also one of the greatest.

Do you feel that when all is said and done that LuKa Doncic could become one of the greatest Europeans to ever play in the NBA?

Doncic will be a legend in the NBA. He is a franchise player and future MVP candidate of the league same like Giannis.

What was the last book that you read?

Lee Child books about Jack Reacher.

Thanks Mateusz for the chat.

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