Poland are stun quarter-finalists at the World Cup yet the team have much more grander ambitions – demonstrating for the last time that theirs is a basketball country.
Under their well-travelled American coach Mike Taylor, the Poles are one of the stories of the tournament in China, or “the new kids on the block” as he put it.
They are back at the World Cup following a 52-year break yet are doing substantially more than simply making up the numbers.
Poland defeated the hosts in extra time in a cauldron-like atmosphere in Beijing in the first round and on Friday made it a barely credible four wins in row with the scalp of old enemy Russia.
Argentina’s triumph over Venezuela hours after the fact affirmed Poland’s improbable spot in the last eight.
“It means the world,” said Taylor, 47, whose varied coaching career has spread over NBA development teams, posts in Britain and Germany, and a situation with the Czech team.
“The country can take self-confidence from the performance of these players. We can compete, we can do it,” Taylor said after Poland expelled Russia 79-74 gratitude to a final quarter blast.
“They hope these guys can inspire the next generation.”
Name-checking any semblance of Serbia, who look effectively adequate to topple World Cup holders the United States, Taylor said that there was “tremendous competition” in Europe.
“Other teams have had more achievements and success,” they said.
“What they are trying to do is to establish that Poland can do it too.”
Taylor’s unheralded men are standing out as truly newsworthy back home.
News on their success over Russia, returning in the wake of being six points behind after the first quarter, even observed a political gathering in Warsaw hindered by cheers.
Maciej Zielinski, a former player with the national group, called it “an unimaginable event”.
“He do not know what he can compare it to — when their last experienced such a thing,” they disclosed to Polish media.
- Rocky street –
In control since 2014, Taylor may now be welcomed with national acclaim when Poland inevitably fly home, yet it was not very far in the past that they faced calls for his head.
Two years prior, Poland won just one of five matches at the EuroBasket championship.
Quick forward and they and their men are discussing a conceivably crucial minute for basketball in the country of almost 40 million people.
“They waited 52 years for this,” said Aleksander “Olek” Balcerowski, whose father Marcin stars for Poland’s wheelchair basketball team.
The 7ft 1in (215cm) focus is the most youthful player in the tournament in China at age 18, held up as an symbol of Poland’s brighter future.
“They worked so hard to come here to show that Poland can ball,” he told the site of administering body FIBA.
“And that’s it, they are here to show that Poland is a basketball country.”
Poland’s last appearance in the Basketball World Cup was in 1967 in Uruguay, where they completed fifth.