Yesterday – the youngest player at the World Cup in China, just taking his first steps in adult basketball. Today – one of the potentially most important players of the national team of Igor Milicic. The radical rejuvenation of the new coach of the Polish team made Aleksander Balcerowski get used to his new role.
However, when, after Tuesday’s training in the Legia hall in Bemowo, just before flying to Israel for the first match of the World Cup qualification, we ask him about being the leader, he slightly winces. – The most important in this team are Mateusz Ponitka and “Sokół”, that is Michał Sokołowski. I want to help this new team on the pitch, but I don’t like being called the leader – says the 21-year-old center.
The youngest, or “Szpaku”
However, he stands out in the national team anyway. It is the tallest in it – it measures 219 cm. And it’s not just a number, Balcerowski is simply great. Dominik Olejniczak, another center player, who measures 213 cm, looks clearly shorter. Maybe because the versatile Balcerowski plays not only under the basket, but everywhere on the pitch? It often goes out to the perimeter where it seems even bigger. He raises the ball over his head, scans the field for passes, but is also ready to scare the opponent with a throw. This versatility makes him a unique basketball player.
In addition, “Szpaku” – because Balcerowski has this nickname in the team – is also the youngest in the current team. Although, due to his considerable experience, it is not clear to everyone. After one of Monday’s training sessions in Warsaw, the coaches usually threw the players: “The youngest collects balls”. Someone pointed to 22-year-old Dominik Wilczek, making his debut at the training camp. – But I’m not the youngest here! – Arka Gdynia player noticed. And only then all eyes turned to “Szpak”, who obediently picked up the balls.
The road to the NBA goes through Belgrade
We have known about Balcerowski’s talent for a long time – he made his debut at the Spanish ACB at the age of 17. Two years later he entered the draft for the first time, and Mike Taylor called him to the national team and entrusted him with the role of a reserve at the World Cup in China.
More sports content can be found at Gazeta.pl >>
But this last year was a breakthrough for him – in the colors of Herbalife Gran Canaria he played 32 games in the Spanish league, he played an important role in Eurocup. And by the organizers of the tournament – second only to Euroleague in the European hierarchy – he was recognized with the “Rising Star” award for the best player of the young generation. Previously, it was awarded to Kristaps Porzingis, Jonas Valanciunas and Mateusz Ponitka.
Balcerowski could not have dreamed of a better business card. “Balcerowski is looking for a way to the NBA, and this one may lead through Spain, Serbia or the upcoming draft” – we wrote in July. Central Poland chose the latter path – perhaps a quieter one, but one that will open the door to the NBA world for him.
Balcerowski from Gran Canaria was loaned to the Serbian vice-champion Mega Basket. This is just a seemingly backward step. The club’s owner is Misko Raznatović, one of the most skillful basketball agents. He runs the Beobasket agency, whose client is Balcerowski, and his club is famous for raising future stars. From the Serbian forge in the NBA draft, 14 players were selected, including last season’s MVP – Nikola Jokic.
“I’m here to get drunk”
– I definitely made the right decision – he says clearly. – After eight years in Gran Canaria, it is difficult to judge my life in Belgrade, but I am happy. I didn’t move there to live more comfortably, but because I have a purpose. I’m there to get drunk.
And he talks about what this “dancing” looks like: three hours of training a day, two in the evening. For this individual classes, specially prepared for tall players. – I get signals that they see an improvement in my game, in her style that I move better, I play under the basket. Recently I lost a lot of weight, but at the same time … gained a lot, but muscle. I have strengthened my body, and this will help me in the game under the scoreboards, in the fight for rebounds. In the last two matches I had seven and nine, respectively, so there is progress, emphasizes Balcerowski.
You can see the change of figure after Balcerowski. He is not only very tall, but also well-built. The Pole says it straight – he did it to fight under the tables with even larger ones – implicitly: with people from the NBA.
The Pole is one of the few Mega Basket players whose coaches are preparing for next year’s draft. Apart from the Pole, these include 18-year-old Serb Nikola Jović and 20-year-old French Malcolm Cazalon. – I do not know if I am the most important “prospect”, but I see interest – scouts are not only at our every match, but also during training – he says.
At the moment, Mega – the club playing in the shadow of Partizan and Crvena Zvezda – has four wins in nine Adriatic League games. In the last match before the break for the national team, the Belgrade team defeated Olympia Ljubljana at 104: 75. Balcerowski’s averages are 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists and 1.4 blocks in 20.1 minutes, which he spends on the pitch.
The Pole adds that in the summer there is one goal: to fight for a contract in the NBA. – This year, I am pushing for a draft with all my might. If we fail – although I do not assume it and I think positively – we will see. But right now, I’m just looking towards the NBA, towards America.