By Paul Nilsen
|Magdalena Zietara and Poland displayed good team basketball in Serbia at the U20 European Championship Women 2011|
When Magdalena Zietara steps out in Debrecen at the U20 European Championship Women next month with Poland, it will provide the perfect opportunity to round-off a magnificent twelve months.
Having secured a wonderful bronze medal in last summer's U20 European Championship Women in Serbia, she then went on to have a breakthrough season in EuroLeague Women. This cemented her position as a pivotal figure in the future of Polish basketball along with the likes of team-mate Malgorzata Misiuk who clinched a place in the All-Tournament Team in Novi Sad.
The all-action Zietara meanwhile averaged 13 points, four rebounds and three assists per game and unsurprisingly, it could prove difficult to surpass her wonderful and memorable experience both on and off the court when she pulls on a Polish vest again next month in Debrecen.
"Last year in Novi Sad was really good and we did a great job there.
"I'm really proud of my team and we showed everyone that Poland can play good basketball.
"As for the organisation in Novi Sad and Zrenjanin, I can't say anything bad about it because everything was just perfect" added Zietara.
"The Serbian people are really friendly and nice and we had such a great experience there."
With the inevitable departures of some players who are too old, it's likely Zietara will have even more responsibility resting on her young shoulders this year but she is ready to take on the additional burden of being a marquee player and leader for her country.
"The most important players in Debrecen will be those who will return from last year's team" explained Zietara.
"I'm probably the most experienced player we have."
"So, I will try to help in any way I can and do my best for the team."
Reaching the podium last time proved to be a launch-pad for the eye-popping EuroLeague Women campaign which followed. Having stepped out briefly in the competition with Lotos Gdynia during 2010-11, Zietara played 20 minutes per game last season under Gdynia head coach Javier Fort.
And, while wins weren't easy to come by, the teenager certainly made the most of the opportunity she was handed.
"Last season was totally different for me" agreed Zietara.
"The coach gave me the chance to play and in the end, I played a lot of minutes and managed to gain a lot of experience.
"I am very proud of myself since it was such a great feeling to be playing against teams like Ros Casares and to be playing that much on the court at the same time as all those great players."
She continued, "My best memory was the game against Bourges at home when we did a great job and the fans showed such great support for us.
"The worst moments were when we lost two times against Uni Seat Gyor and we lost any possibility of progressing to the second round."
Her form even led to her being included in the senior Polish squad ahead of the current EuroBasket Women qualifiers and while she didn't make the final cut as some had hoped, this just means she will be even more focused for next month's action.
"I did have the possibility to play for the senior national team, but I had a little bit of a problem with my foot" admitted Zietara.
"They said it was maybe better that I was 100% ready and healthy for the U20 tournament"
"I still think they are about to qualify for EuroBasket Women 2013 - even though we have been playing without two great players in (Agnieszka) Bibrzycka and (Ewelina) Kobryn."
Certainly if Poland do make it to France and book their spot this week then another strong season could see Zietara challenge for a place on next year's roster.
The versatile small forward also looks set to continue her development at club level too. She has undoubtedly grown in maturity and increased her level of influence with each passing month and that looks like a trend which is set to continue.
"I will stay in Gdynia for next season.
"We will have a young team and only be playing the Polish league.
"So, the goal for me and the team will be to be placed in the first four of the Polish League."
For now though, Zietara has only one thing in her mind and that is to somehow replicate a near perfect Serbian summer.