|"I am 100% sure that if we fail, I am going to get all the beatings back home, nobody else" - Marcin Gortat |
By Dimitris Kontos
If Polish star Marcin Gortat has his way at EuroBasket 2013, a monumental party will erupt in Slovenia on 22 September, extend to Poland and the west coast of the USA, and go on for at least three weeks.
"I want to leave this country [Slovenia] with a medal," the Phoenix Suns big man told fibaeurope.com
"If we get it, I can tell you right now, I am going be missing training camp in the NBA," he laughed.
"I am going to be partying for three weeks right after the tournament!
"It's a dream, it's a freaking dream to leave here with a medal, it's going to be huge."
"Obviously it's going to take a lot, a lot of sacrifices mentally and physically, but if that's what we have to do, then that's what we have to do."
Part of the mental sacrifices the 29-year-old center is prepared for, stems from the weight of fans' expectations back home and the fact that the spotlight falls upon him more than anyone else.
"Obviously there is a lot of pressure not only on the team, but on my shoulders," Gortat dead-pans.
"I am 100% sure that if we fail, I am going to get all the beatings back home, nobody else, I am going to hear all the complaining.
"I know that, I've realised it a long time ago and I am ready to take the responsibility."
LIFE, DEATH AND BASKETBALL
Poland have arrived at EuroBasket 2013 with a new coach at the helm, Dirk Bauermann.
The 56-year-old German tactician has steered his home nation to four EuroBasket tournaments and must know only too well what Gortat feels like, considering that a certain Dirk Nowitzki played for Germany in those events with the eyes of an entire nation fixed firmly upon him.
"To me, there is no pressure," Bauermann replied almost sternly to a question by the Polish media after his team's late Tuesday practice.
"I was under pressure once and it was a life or death situation, that's what real pressure is."
"This is basketball.
"They [the players] have to concentrate on what it takes to win the game, on what they have to do individually and collectively.
"So let's not get carried away with what pressure is.
"It's always important to get off to a good start, I know that, and the troops are ready, trust me.
"Everything is really good, the hotel is very nice and the players are in the right frame of mind.
"You can tell they cannot wait to get started, but they are not overly nervous, they are confident and ready to go."
|"My goal in life is to be remembered, it's not about how much money you can make, it is to put your name in history" -Marcin Gortat |
THE GOAL IS TO BE REMEMBERED
Bauermann's words are unlikely to prevent the sizeable Polish media contingent in Celje, Slovenia, from chasing Gortat around.
But that is not what the big man wishes anyway, Gortat is so witty and good with words that he can easily play to the audience when it comes to journalists.
What he wants right now in Celje is something else.
"I wish, my wish is that this group would leave standing [he pauses for comic effect]... Georgia, Czech Republic and Poland," Gortat quips with a wide smile.
"It's hard to say [who will advance from the group], I don't want to disrespect anyone else.
"We just care about ourselves and we want to win as many games as we can.
"We want to go to the next round and be in this tournament as long as possible.
"There is a lot of talent on the team, we have a great coach and for the first time possibly in the last 15 years, we have a good chance of winning something.
"So, it might be our tournament."
Gortat is now a veteran and is approaching the end of his playing career fast.
The medal at EuroBasket 2013 he dreams of is part of his long-term ambition, to leave a legacy behind him as an athlete, and he needs no further motivation to suit up for Poland.
"It is just an honour to play for the national team," he said.
"My goal in life is to be remembered, it's not about how much money you can make, it is to put your name in history.
"I want to represent my country here, play in the NBA and be the best I can be, win as many games and titles as possible.
"Hopefully I will make everyone back in Poland proud.
"I come from a sporting family, my mother was a volleyball player and my father a boxer and they both were international athletes, so it's my responsibility."