Despite the previous conflict with Mateusz Ponitka, Marcin Gortat says the Polish NT captain has done a fantastic job at EuroBasket 2022.

Credit: AP – Scanpix, FIBA
Credit AP – Scanpix, FIBA

Poland created a cinderella story at FIBA EuroBasket 2022, finishing in the Top 4 and eliminating Luka Doncic's Slovenia from the tournament.

Mateusz Ponitka

Mateusz  Ponitka
Position: SF
Age: 29
Height: 197 cm
Weight: 93 kg
Birth place: Ostrow, Poland

No one believed it would be possible to achieve such a result in the arguably strongest EuroBasket throughout the last decades. Marcin Gortat, either.

"It is a historic achievement for this group of people. Something fantastic!" the Polish basketball star told Sportowe Fakty. "I think everyone is surprised that Poland played such a great tournament. There is no need to hide, before the championship, everyone would take this result without hesitation. Nobody, including me, gave this team a big chance.

Such opinions were also expressed by fans, experts, former basketball players, and journalists. Everyone said we were going home early. And this is due to what has happened in Polish basketball in the last twelve months. A large number of scandals and terrible results in the World Cup European Qualifiers," Gortat continued.

"Meanwhile, after reading these unflattering opinions, the team went to the tournament and made a great sensation. Hats off to them. They did a fantastic job. It is a great adventure that will stay in their minds forever," the 38-year-old stressed.

As stated by Gortat, unflattering opinions really give a motivational kick to action. Something like this happened during Gortat's career, too.

"I must admit that such unfavorable opinions gave me a lot of fuel in my tank. Due to all these opinions, interviews, and texts, I was able to motivate myself even more," he revealed.

"When there was no strength at the end of the match, I was able to gain additional energy to prove to the doubters that Marcin Gortat can also do something on the basketball court.

That's why I think these poor opinions motivated the guys to act. They wanted to show everyone that the public was wrong. Players talked a lot [during interviews] about hate on the internet," Gortat uttered.

The journalist then reminded Marcin Gortat of a conflict with Polish captain Mateusz Ponitka.

Back in March, Gortat criticized Ponitka for his return to Zenit Saint Petersburg after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

"Mateusz Ponitka has always been an individualist. He always walked his paths. Sometimes it's good, sometimes – bad. He made the decisions one would expect of him... He only thought of 'himself'. There is no major shock or surprise for me in this situation. Everyone has the right to do so.

It is sad that he is the captain of our team [Polish NT]. It seems to me that many people expected a different decision. You have to remember that the captain's armband was given to him by the president," Gortat spoke at that time.

Now, Marcin Gortat doesn't spare nice words for his fellow countryman.

"Let's put the facts in order. I never said that Mateusz Ponitka destroyed the Polish team or that he was a bad basketball player. He has always defended himself in terms of sports. Nobody has ever questioned this. Mateusz showed that he was the leader of this team at the tournament. He had a phenomenal match against Slovenia, where he went down in the history of EuroBasket.

Although I believe he had games where he was less visible. But it's due to the fact that rivals were well prepared for the match and knew how to defend him. It's not easy to be a leader in team sports. Let's be clear: since he is the leader of the fourth team in Europe, it means that he has done a fantastic job," Gortat praised Ponitka for his performance.

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