Michal Michalak ('93) is part of the great polish generation, joining Ponitka, Karnowski, Gielo or Niedzwiedzki. "There is no chances for me to play in NCAA, because I am not eligible due to signing with agent. However, at this moment I am not able to tell more about my future", explains the prospect, discussing his future in an exclusive interview to Eurohopes.
We are talking some time after finish of your first season in Tauron Basket League [first polish division - ed.]. What are your impressions?
"I think that it was really good year for me, good introduction to senior basketball at the highest level. At the beginning of the season I got a chance in AZS Politechnika Warsaw, where coach Mladen Starcevic was using many polish prospects as he promised before season. I remember that first minutes in Tauron Basket League were quite stressful for me. Worth to admit that couple of years ago I was just watching the league in television and now I was its member. This caused that in first games I was really excited and enthusiastic. With time I got used to this situation. First part of season I spent as back-up player in AZS Politechnika, then I moved to LKS Lodz, where my role is undeniably more serious. Generally I am sure that it was good year for me. Despite fact I was playing in teams from low parts of table, I showcased my skills and check myself out comparing to other players. I am really glad that I had opportunity to play at the highest domestic level".
As you said, in the middle of season you decided to change club. Looking back, was it good decision?
"I have to notice that over season 2011/12 there were many organizational and financial issues in AZS Politechnika. So I decided to move to my hometown to Lodz, where I had better conditions to develop and focus on game. It was undeniably good decision, especially looking at my statistics and style of game, which I presented in LKS. Nonetheless I am really glad that I had opportunity to be member of great AZS Politechnika’s program, because I have been playing almost 3 years in Warsaw, where I learnt a lot from coach Starcevic. I am still in touch with him, despite he was unhappy about my leaving. Looking back, I would made the same decision, because in Lodz I was able to play more, what gave me more self-confidence".
You had not only better statistics in Lodz, but you also completely change your style of game. From spot-up shooter you developed into aggressive combo guard, who was playing mainly on dribble. Which style do you prefer?
"It is sure that in different teams your role is different, what depends on many factors. W LKS I had a lot of freedom in my game and coached allowed me to play not only as shooter, but also as creator. In several games I was used even as point guard due to some problems in rotations on that position, what undeniably helped me to became better and more versatile player. To sum up - in Lodz I got opportunity to show my different game, I was tested on few positions. It was really good experience".
According to multiple rumors LKS will not continue game in Tauron Basket League in next season. Have you wondered about your future yet?
"You are right, it seems that LKS will withdraw from first division. We will see. Now I am really busy, but I am looking for solid club in Poland as well as abroad. There is no chances for me to play in NCAA, because I am not eligible due to signing with agent. However, at this moment I am not able to tell more about my future".
In Poland there is a discussion about the best way of development for talented players from our “golden 1993 generation”, while you are one of them. What way is better in opinion - playing pro somewhere in Europe or go to NCAA?
"Honestly it is really tough question. It is not my role to judge ways of development or my teammates. It is individual business each of us. Although in my opinion is the best to see on examples. I have decided not to go to NCAA, because I am not excited on that league. It is not my dream. Maybe in future I will be able to play in United States, but in NBA [laugh - ed.]. NCAA is quite specific league. For European players it is really tough to make best decision choosing the school. It is one big enigma. It shows for example case of Tomasz Gielo, who is really athletic and talented player, but his freshman year was not fully successful. I am sure that future of Przemek Karnowski, who committed to Gonzaga will tell us more. Is NCAA the best option for him? We will see. My point is that for me better is to stay somewhere in Europe".
In the first week of April you had an occasion to be in United States, because you were selected to participate at prestigious Nike Hoop Summit. How was the trip?
"All seven days were just like from dream! American basketball in terms of show and organization stands higher than polish. All what I experienced over Nike Hoop Summit was undeniably great. I had also occasion to be on NBA game for first time. But the most incredible memory is performance in Nike Hoop Summit, where best European prospects face best American high school players. I spent seven days with players, who in future will be on top of the world. In addition I presented myself to agents, scouts and coaches from all over the world. Hopefully I left only good impressions".
You are only 19-years player. Does it mean that you are still working on your skills? What do you want to improve in this offseason?
"After season I had a lot of free time and I have tried to use it on best way. This summer should be really important for my future. I am working mainly on my body, I want to fill out my frame and become more athletic. I want also to improve my defense, but it is connected mainly on my body and athleticism. I want to generally put my game on higher level and adapt to new surroundings".
From an early age you are well-known mainly from your pure shooting touch. Is it natural-born talent or effect of hard work?
"Being a bit immodest, I think that my shooting touch is natural talent. I remember that from the first practice I did not have any problems with shoot. I was only improving my technique with age. In my opinion players have got shooting talent since birth - I mean way of catching the ball, setting of hands and legs, release point or timing. Nonetheless hard work is basis if you want to achieve something. That is the reason why I try to shoot as much as possible, arriving to practices earlier and then staying in arena to make some extra attempts. To sum up I would tell that I only try to hold my shooting touch with hard work".
Most of prospects have got their idol. Are you trying to watch any player and then copy his style?
"All people, who know me, knows that I am faithful fan of Kobe Bryant. I am with him for better or for worse. In my opinion he is the best player all over the world and he is my idol. In my opinion you have to learn from the bests".