Poland Brings Home First Win In FIBA World Cup Since 1967 For Head Coach And Former Bobcat Mike Taylor (09/01/19)

(Photos courtesy of Mike Taylor) Above: Mike with some of his players from Team Poland

After reaching the FIBA World Cup for the first time since 1967, the Polish National Basketball Team, under the guidance of six year head coach and Clarion Area favorite son, Mike Taylor and his staff, wasted no time in getting their first World Cup win in that fifty-two year span.

Team Poland downed Group A opponent Venezuela 80-69, on Saturday (August 31st) at Wukesong Sports Arena, in Beijing, in their opening game of the tournament. (They will play host China tomorrow, Monday (September 2nd)

Team Poland found themselves down 24-22 at the end of the first period, but after outscoring Venezuela 22-12 in the second, they took a 44-36 lead into halftime.

A one point, 16-15 edge for Poland, in the third, left them up 60-51, heading to the final stanza. And finishing with a 20-18 Poland advantage, in the fourth, the final was 80-69 win was secured.

Mike and other members of Team Poland staff

Five Team Poland players finished in double-figures, led by Michal Sokolowski, with sixteen. He went 7-for-9 from the floor and also had a big game on the boards, with 9 rebounds. Mateuz Ponitka followed with fifteen. Adam Waczynski had thirteen. Aaron Cel and Adam Hrycaniuk chipped in with 12 and 10 respectively.

Pedro Churio led Venezuela with 15 points.

Team Poland will next face host China, tomorrow (Monday, September 2nd).

Coach Taylor shared a lot of insight into Team Poland, in the post-game press conference, which can be viewed in a youtube post by FIBA World Cup.

He was very pleased with his team’s performance.

“I’m really proud of our guys. You know it was a great team victory. Our players over the years have shown they have the ability to rise to the occasion and rise to the challenge in many different forms.

“I’m really proud we played to our identity, really good team basketball, really good team effort.”

He was also impressed with his opponent, stating, “Credit and respect to Venezuela; they started the game, they were on fire. They really showed their experience. They really showed some quality, out there.”

Coach Taylor shared some of the keys to Poland’s victory, “The key for us was improving some of our defensive ball pressure, as the game went on and I think too adjusting to some of their traps and run and jump and surprise defense.

“A key stat to me was out rebounding them 42 to 39.

“We just had really good teamwork out there. We moved the ball, we spaced the floor, we hit shots, we made some big plays. And really, I can’t be more proud of the guys for this first step.

“A great start to the tournament, here at the World Cup, for us.”

When asked about the pressure of playing the host team next, Coach Taylor said, “If people really know our team, over the last five or six years, we’ve played the host country twice before. In EuroBasket 2015, we had a great game against France… We lost 66-63. And in EuroBasket 2017, we had a great double-overtime game against Helsinki. At the end of regulation, we were up by nine with a minute-thirty to go. We had some turnovers…

“So our team has experienced playing in this focal point game. It’s not just a home court advantage; it’s a home country advantage. So I know our guys are going to rise to that challenge; they’re going to look forward to the experience.

“You know, we respect the Chinese team. For me, they’ve been interesting to follow, because they played with two different teams through much of the qualifications. They played with many players. I got a chance to see them play with the NBA Summer League up-close. So we’re studying them, looking forward to the challenge to play them. But I know our guys, because of our history, are going to be extra motivated. It has nothing to do with China. It has to do with us being our best and taking on those challenges.

“I’m looking forward to the game. We have respect for China.

“The World Cup, here in Beijing is first class, great hospitality. And to play the home team, it will be a special challenge.”

How great is this? Mike Taylor at FIBA World Games

Coach Taylor, who was the first quarterback for Clarion Area Football Coach Larry Wiser must picked up on his Clarion Area mentor’s “famous” philosophy about not looking to far ahead, “We take everything one game at a time, so the players were focused on Venezuela. So we will introduce, tomorrow (Sunday) morning, our Chinese game plan. The players don’t know anything about China yet, the personnel and everything. But, they will learn quickly.”

He mentioned two of his key players in the victory over Venezuela, “We love Soko. He plays with great energy. He’s very physical. Kind of our team joke is, ‘Sokolowsk, go out there and Sock-it-to ‘em.’ So that’s kind of what Soko did today. He really attacked the boards. He can play the 3, he can play the 4. He was an important match-up for us against Carrera, who plays with tremendous energy himself, Number 42, for Venezuela.

“So we try to match Sacco against Carrera. And really Sacco stepped up his game today and impacted the game in several different ways. He socked-it-to ‘em. And I’m really proud of him.”

“Adam Hrycaniuk, we call him the Beast. That’s his nickname, affectionally. He is a high level defender for big man, blue collar player. (10 points, 10 rebounds). “He’s one of those guys coaches love; Sacco is one of those guys coaches love, the blue collar team guys. Again, this is our identity and I’m glad these guys stepped up and helped us today.”

Mike with FIBA World Cup Mascot “Son of Dream” the Chinese Dragon

When asked about how he would want the world to remember this team, Coach Taylor said, “We’re all new the World Cup stage. We own it. We talked about sticking to our identity and being who we are. That’s our best way to success.

“We feel like we are battle tested and proven in Europe. Five of the top eight teams in this World Cup are from Europe and I think people will tell you in the European game, ‘Hey, we respect Poland. We respect what these players and the team has done.’ So we take confidence in that. But it’s new.

“So I just want our guys to stick to their identity, be who we are, unselfish… team play… balanced scoring… tough defense… execute… compete. We’ve been together for a long time; we love each other and I’m really proud that we got off to a great start here in the tournament.”