One of the great things about watching Euroleague teams is that even long after you have noticed players like Nando de Colo, Sergio Rodriguez, Corey Higgins or a Kyle Hines of CSKA Moscow, there are still amazing players on that roster all the way to the 12th man. It isn´t quite the same with Eurocup teams, but when you take the top teams, you will find a lot of the same and it isn´t any different with 2017 Eurocup winner Unicaja Malaga. When you observe that roster, two names that stand out right away are ex NBA players Brian Roberts and Kyle Wiljer, but it doesn´t end there. The list goes on with 2017 NBA Draft Pick French man Mathias Lessort and Serbian sharp shooter Dragon Milosavljevic or even 217cm 120 kilo monster Georgian Giorgi Shermadini who´s name on paper might not raise eyebrows right away, but when you see him dominating in the paint, then one might come up with the nickname King Kong. But wait a minute, Unicaja Malaga already have their King Kong, but he isn´t from Georgia and isn´t anywhere near 217cm. But moreover the Unicaja Malaga King Kong is only 199cm and weighs only 95 kilo´s. Instead of fighting against double and triple teams the way a Shermadini has to and dunk with authority, Unicaja´s king kong is from Poland and named Adam Waczynski who has a knack for hitting three´s with ease, the way a Damien Lillard has that intense killer mentality to shoot a in your face three for the win. The Polish sniper didn´t get the nickname because of his physic, but was born at a Malaga home game after he thanked a diehard fan for his supportive input by hitting his chest which resembled a boisterous King Kong in the jungle. But if one looks back at the career of Adam Waczynski, this innovative nickname might never have been created had he not left his native Poland. The Polish national player first made a name for himself playing many years with Trefl Sopot where he racked in 4 titles until making the jump to the Spanish ACB in 2014 where he has been ever since. He got his big break from Rio Natura Monbus Obradoiro CAB in 2014 where he played two seasons before moving to Malaga in 2016. “I had an opportunity from Obradoiro to play in the best league in Europe. I could of stayed in Poland and lived my life there as a star of many teams. But I chose a harder way. To compete with the best teams and try to reach even higher goals. It worked. Those two years gave me confidence and belief that I can play on this level. I was working with the coaching staff from Obradoiro on my technique and working on my off the ball screen shooting. It was really productive years for me and I will never forget it”, warned Adam Waczynski.
He was born on October 15th, 1989 in Torun, Poland and had his first playing experience with Wax Torun (3Liga) in 2004 while also visiting the youth teams of Prokom Trefl Sopot in 2005. He made a very nice development with the Sopot youth teams and already gained his first Euroleague experience in the 2007-2008 season as a teenager. He then got further important basketball grooming with Victoria Gornik Walbrzych (DBE) playing 25 games and averaging 9.8ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.6apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 46.0%, 3PT: 41.0%, FT: 70.3% and a year later played with PBG Basket Poznan (PLK) where he became an important team leader in the Polish first division playing 23 games averaging 9.3ppg, 2.1rpg, 2.0apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 63.0%, 3PT: 32.7%, FT: 77.4%. He then made the jump to Trefl Sopot (PLK) in 2010 and would spend four years there winning four titles. He was able to improve his scoring average each season and really took off in his third season where his dangerous three pointer was observed in two competitions. He played 36 Polish league games averaging 13.9ppg, 3.9rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 52.0%, 3PT-3(45.4%), FT: 79.7%; and played 6 EuroCup games averaging 10.8ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 51.7%, 3PT: 47.1%, FT: 84.6%. These four years including his previous time with the youth teams probably were the most important years in his career that helped shape his game and allow him to move on to the Spanish ACB. “Sopot is like home for me. I moved there when I was 16, I met my wife, played at the highest level. So obviously I wanted to play as good as I could to give all the love back to the club that gave me all these things in my life. Every year was individually better for me. And a moment came that the best for me was to move out of the country to continue the career in a better league. For sure those years showed that I can compete in Spain. I just needed to prove this on the court playing against the best”, warned Adam Waczynski. He didn´t play international club competition in his last season with Sopot, but still put up solid stats as he played 45 games averaging 14.8ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.6apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 49.1%, 3PT: 45.3%, FT: 81.7%. In his last four years there he played 164 Polish league games and scored in double figures in 101 games. Of course for him to have been able to win so many titles there, he had to have been able to have great teammates and will never forget them. “I played with many great players. Of course John Turek was one of them. Undersized big man with an amazing touch to score back to the basket and even score threes. Playing hard and running really fast. Hard to find a big man like him. I learned a lot from Lorinza Harrington ex-NBA player. Competitor from head to toes. He was always telling me to defend like it’s my last defense. To take that challenge and stop people from scoring. I always have it in my mind. Of course Polish players like Lukasz Koszarek or Filip Dylewicz – Polish superstars that I could watch every day in practice and getting advice helped also”, stressed Adam Waczynski.
He made the jump to Europe´s best league ACB in 2014 and joined Rio Natura Monbus Obradoiro CAB (Spain-Liga ACB). Back in October 2014 a young Mateusz Ponitka was climbing the basketball ladder and playing in Belgium and in the last years has shone in the ACB and this season is playing in the VTB with Lokomotove Kuban and remembered feeling happy for his Polish national team teammate for reaching Spain. “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 to play 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”, warned Mateusz Ponitka. In his first season he played 34 games averaging 12.5ppg, 1.9rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 46.5%, 3PT: 41.6%, FT: 84.0%. In his first season he scored in double figures in 19 games including a 27 point explosion against Bilbao and a 26 point effort against Laboral. He finished the season netting 20 points in a losing cause to FC Barcelona. In his second season he was able to up his scoring average from the previous season as he played 27 games with Rio Natura Monbus Obradoiro CAB (Spain-ACB) and was the leagues third top scorer averaging 14.6ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 42.0%, FT: 90.2%. He scored in double figures 17 times including achieving 30 points against Zaragoza and Andorra and had 28 points against Murcia. He credits his 30 point explosion against Andorra as one of his best games in his five years in Spain. “One of them for sure. I have many great moments in my head but this one was something special for sure. One of my few game winners in my career, need to stay in the head for a long time”, added Adam Waczynski. He also will always have great memories of his last season with them, because his scoring results helped him make the next step to Malaga. “Many teams because of this year knew my name. It was a big step forward. And being on the list in front of many great players from Real and Barca, you need to feel good”, stressed Adam Waczynski.
The Polish national player has proven two things in his basketball career and that is that he is a modern day forward and that he is extremely versatile and that he has been relatively consistent in his career and has made his three point shooting one of his main weapons. He was a bit hesitant to trying to compare his game to an NBA player, but after some thought came up with a name.” I try to do my best not doing only 1 thing. I don’t want to be scouted easy,but trying to surprise the defender as many times I can. I don’t like to compare myself to anyone. Everyone is different. Maybe I could compare myself little bit to Otto Porter that I know from Marcin Gortat’s camps in Poland. I like how he’s playing, good shooter, playing also with the ball, team player and a humble person privately”, stressed Adam Waczynski. Sometimes being able to improve and excel at something is a lot easier than one might think at least according to Adam Waczynski. The polish sniper has shot 40% or better the last six years whereas before that he was shooting in the mid 30´s. “I think it was my mentality and healthy food that I put into my life. I started to watch everything besides basketball to step up on a higher level. It worked and I tried to stay like this and watch out for all the distractions. Also when you know that you are doing everything correctly makes you believe in yourself even stronger. And self confidence is really important for every shooter around the world”, warned Adam Waczynski. A great thing about his shooting success is that he won´t heave up 15 -20 shots a game like guys in Houston or Oklahoma City, but really does a superb job picking his spots and knowing what a perfect shot is in comparison to just a good shot. He is still hungry at age 29 to get better and better. “I try to improve my game with the ball and of course defense. Offense is a matter of repetitions. Playing with the ball and being active is more like a mental thing so I try to stay aggressive with the ball and also be a creator in our system”, stressed Adam Waczynski.
In 2016 he made the next big jump in his basketball career and signed with Unicaja Malaga (Spain-Liga-ACB) and is in his third season there. He joined a team that was a totally different caliber from Rio Natura Monbus Obradoiro CAB in that Malaga had a lot bigger budget and a lot more talented players where scoring options rose shaving down his stats a bit. But which player wouldn´t be willing to have that happen to win titles? In his first season he played 30 ACB games averaging 8.0ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 58.8%, 3PT: 43.9%, FT: 63.3%; and played 22 Eurocup games averaging 7.5ppg, 2.7rpg, FGP: 45.3%, 3PT: 44.7%, FT: 66.7%. To win any title is difficult, but to win a title at the Eurocup level is always extremely tough and he also remembered his team being very tough that season and very special. “We were just competing to the end against everyone, we never surrendered. In the finals we missed our main big guy Dejan Musli – best 5 of the season. Alen Omic was disqualified in the 4th quarter and we played the whole 4th quarter small ball against guys like Dubljevic, Kravtsov, and Will Thomas. Really big guys. And we made it, started to make shots, defended good, made shots again, played hard and defended and suddenly we came back from -14 to +5. We never gave up and many of us sacrificed a lot for the team to win. This is what I will remember the most from this team”, stressed Adam Waczynski. Valencia gave Malaga a hard fight and one player that he never forgot as did no team in the easyCredit BBL the last two years is Luke Sikma a guy that really impressed the Polish national player. “He´s got basketball in his blood. He played many years in the ACB and I’m a type of player that is following other leagues and watching how the players are doing after leaving Spain. He is one of the guys who was making a difference. He can make a three, offensive rebound, play back to the basket. Having him in a team is for sure a great experience for all the players”, added Adam Waczynski. Last season with Unicaja Malaga he continued to display his consistency and had a very strong Euroleague season as he played 35 ACB games averaging 8.2ppg, 1.9rpg, FGP: 51.1%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 72.5%; and 27 Euroleague games averaging 10.1ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 50.6%, 3PT: 49.5%, FT: 82.9%. His best Euroleague games were wins against Turkish teams where he netted 20 points against Efes and 18 points against Fenerbahce. Usually top teams change their rosters from season to season keeping a few pieces and adding new ones so having many teammates in your memories is something that not only a Adam Waczynski knows about, but many other players. He especially had fond memories of ex NBA player James Augustein who was one of those big men that he harmonized well with. “James is a great person and a great player. I learned a lot from him as a guard that needs great screens from the big guys. He was very good in switching the pace and the side of the ball finding the best solution and best angle of the screen to get us open. He is also a great passer and always looking to find somebody open. He should be the perfect example for younger players how a modern five man should play these days”, said Adam Waczynski.
He lists NBA legends Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Lebron James And Wilt Chamberlain on his NBA Rushmore and completed his third season for Unicaja Malaga and fifth season in the ACB in Spain. Spain has easily become like a second home to him. ”It is almost like home. I really appreciate many things here in Spain. All my family speak Spanish so for sure it’s easier for us to live here. I like the culture, the weather. It’s only 4 hours by plane to go to Poland so our family comes to visit us many times during the season. It also makes us feel better. I’m happy to play in the ACB and in Euro competitions now with Unicaja. The level is really great and I feel like every year is a big experience for me as a basketball player. The fans are amazing and helping us to feel here like home”, stressed Adam Waczynski. As usual Unicaja Malaga made the playoffs, but were unable to follow up their 2017 Eurocup title and this season bowed out to German team Alba Berlin in the quarterfinals winning a thrilling 91-90 game to start the series, but then were unable to get the job done in crunch-time in game three allowing the German side into the semi-finals. A few months before the Alba Berlin series, he summed up why it´s always so difficult to compete against German teams. “German teams are always solid and ready to compete. They have amazing players – National team and the teams that I played against – always with a winning mentality that’s why it’s so difficult to win”, warned Adam Waczynski. He knew that for the club to make a surprise in the playoffs against a big fish, they will have needed contribution from everyone in many ways. “All our players are really on a high level and with great experience. The thing what will make us stronger is playing together and finding the best possible position. Because all of us can finish the plays with a basket. The most important is to share the ball and enjoy playing together to achieve great things as a team”, warned Adam Waczynski some months ago. Three players that will have to continue to shine on the court until the end are ex NBA players Brian Roberts, Kyle Wiltjer and top French big man Mathias Lessort. “Brian is a good creator, he will find players like a real PG. And he is not a type of player that you can leave alone on the 3 point line. He will shoot at a high percentage so it also makes us more open on the floor. I appreciate his basketball IQ, it’s already bringing us a lot of great things. Kyle is an amazing shooter who can score baskets in a row like a machine. You cannot leave him open and the defense is focused on him a lot. He can play back to the basket and make a fade away, plays hard on both ends. Mathias is like an energy bomb. He is always playing hard and with big effort. Gives us a lot of positive strength in the game and attracts a lot of attention under the basket because of his great dunking. All of them gives us a lot of great plays offensively”, warned Adam Waczynskia few months ago. Unfortunately for him and Unicaja, they bowed out against Valencia after having won the first game. They lost the deciding game three 79-76. In the ACB he averaged 6,3ppg, 1,9rpg and 1,1apg while shooting 35% from outside and in the Eurocup he averaged 8,3ppg,2,0rpg and 1,8apg and shot 44% from outside.
He lists PG Kyle Fogg, SG Nemanja Nedovic, SF Jeff Brooks, PF Maxi Kleber and C Marcin Gortat as his best five teammates ever and also has had a stellar Polish national team career and experienced some great times. He got valuable early experience playing European championships with the Polish National U-18 and U-20 teams. In 2011, he played the first of four senior European championships with the first being in Lithuania where he played 4 games and saw limited time. However this being his first European championships wasn´t only memorable for being his first, but also for being able to battle against one exceptional player and later others. “I remember Eurobasket 2011 when I was playing against Luol Deng. I was 22 and it was my first big competition in my life. Luol was amazing the whole tournament and I was impressed. Lately the biggest impression on me was playing against Kyle Kuric and Will Clyburn. Kuric is a great shooter and a smart defender. Clyburn is a monster athlete and a great scorer. Also Bojan Bogdanovic is a great player, great athlete and can score in many different situations. It was hard to guard those guys”, stressed Adam Wacynski. He made his breakthrough at the 2014 European Championships qualifiers where he played 6 games averaging 14,0ppg, 3,5rpg and 3,2apg and shot an astronomical 53% from outside. He split against Germany, but will never forget the tight 68-67 win where he led all scorers with 19 points. “It was a very important win for us. First game of the qualifiers. Everybody knows how important is to win the first game to continue playing in the top of the group. We played amazing, with our home crowd – by the way in my hometown. It gave me a lot of energy. I think this is one of the best experiences in my national team career”, warned Adam Waczynski.
That summer, he also played twice against current NBA player Macxi Kleber who only a few weeks later would become his teammate in Spain. Waczynski remembers those first battles against him and was impressed right away and knew then that big things would follow in the future like the NBA.” He is a great person and a great athlete. Taking care of his body every day. I was talking with my friends and my wife about Maxi when we were teammates. I really wished him the best after all his injuries that he’s been through. We said that year, that when he will stay healthy he will be in the NBA. Amazing dunks, running fast breaks, shooting threes. It was just a matter of time when he will be there. I follow him all the time, we stay in contact every season and I always keep my fingers crossed for him. The way he acts off the court and the way he plays deserves the best so I think people in the NBA will appreciate it and he will stay there for a long long time”, warned Adam Waczynski. All his hard work over the years paid off at the European championships in 2015(15.8ppg, 2.5rpg, 1.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 58.3%, 3PT: 46.4%, FT: 84.8%) and 2017(14.4ppg, 3.2rpg, 3.4apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 40.6%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 88.9%) as he demonstrated that he can play with the best in Europe. He continued his consistency at the last World Cup qualifying round helping Poland reach the world championships again ending their 52 year drought playing 8 games averaging 13.5ppg, 2.5rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 43.2%, 3PT: 52.3%, FT: 63.6%. He is thankful for Polish national team head coach Mike Taylor that he has continued to believe in his talent and helped make him a main contributor for the team. “He gave me a lot of confidence and the role in the national team makes me play even better. A lot of things depends on me and what I will do on the court. Mike has an amazing knowledge from the German league but most of all from the NBA. He was the guy who showed many of us the style of an NBA coach and NBA game. This is a great experience that you cannot buy anywhere”, warned Adam Waczynski. Not only has he proved that he can be a consistent and solid ACB player in Spain, but this summer, he is hungry to help Poland make history at the World Cup and continue to show that choosing the harder way has paid off instead of taking the easier route and having stayed in his native country to be a star.