heinnews’s David Hein is the U18 European Championship in Wroclaw, Poland and had a chat with Polish international Tomasz Gielo, who will be attending the University of Liberty in the United States starting this fall. They discussed what Poland need to do to win the title – or at least their first European youth medal; where the current generation of strong Polish players came from; and who Polish basketball players look up to.
heinnews: Tomasz, Poland are the hosts and strong title contenders for the U18 title. What is the team’s goal for this tournament?
Gielo: We need to win every game and I think that’s the goal. We have to go out on the court and believe that we can win every game. The main slogan of the tournament is “I Believe” and we all believe that we can win this tournament.
heinnews: What does Poland need to do to win the title?
Gielo: We have to have the team spirit, which is currently great. We need to keep being focused during the whole game. We got some really nice guys on the national team and I think we are in a good mood to win the whole tournament.
heinnews: This Polish team has some great prospects in Przemyslaw Karnowski and Mateusz Ponitka among others. Poland have not produced much basketball talent in the past. Where all of a sudden does this generation come from?
Gielo: I think it just comes from Poland. A lot of guys in Poland just have really big talents but they are not really believing in their success. And our head coach and the whole coaching staff are telling us to maintain belief in ourselves.
heinnews: Are there more Polish guys coming?
Gielo: As you can see we have some guys from 1994 on this national team (Jan Grzelinski, Kacper Borowski and Daniel Szymkiewicz) and I think they are the next guys. And after that there should be some more guys. The U16 national team this summer also has some guys who are really talented. So I think there are a lot of good players in Poland. They just have to believe in themselves.
heinnews: Lithuania players have past greats like Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulonis to look up to. And Balkan players have Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Vlade Divac and others. Who do you and this team look up to?
Gielo: We are watching the NBA and the Euroleague and we are trying to have some parts and moves from their games. That’s the whole point, believe in yourself and watch the best players around the world and learn a lot.
heinnews: But which players do you and your teammates watch and want to be like?
Gielo: Most of the guys on the national team like Kobe Bryant. For myself, I prefer LeBron James. Also Kevin Durant and Lamar Odom. Tall and thin just like me. I try to watch them and learn from them.
heinnews: What would it mean to one day have small Polish kids look up to you and the others of this generation?
Gielo: That would be great. But there is really, really a lot of hard work in front of us. When we believe in ourselves and focus on every practice or every tournament we can reach the top and that is our goal for the future.
heinnews: Poland has hosted a lot of tournaments the past couple years. How big of a help for Polish basketball has that been?
Gielo: I think it had a great impact on our basketball because a lot of young players and young guys who don’t play basketball are coming to the arenas and watching the games and they try to play basketball at their home court or a street basketball. And that’s the whole point.