|Justyna Zurowska had a nine-year stay with Gorzow before leaving prior to the 2011/2012 season|
By Paul Nilsen
Polish national team player Justyna Zurowska headed for powerhouse Wisla-Can Pack last year, but it did not exactly go according to plan.
EVENTFUL FIRST YEAR IN KRAKOW
Her rookie campaign with the ‘White Star' club was eventful to say the least, with an injury crisis, dramatic late coaching change and an empty trophy cabinet all being thrown at the forward.
"Every new season is a new experience and you never quite know what it will bring," reflected Zurowska.
"After nine years of playing in Gorzow with one coach, my last two have been totally different," she says, referring to 2011 when she left her home club for Lotos Gdynia, before ending the season with Landes Basket in France.
At the beginning of the 2012/13 season Zurowska was back in Poland with Wisla Krakow.
"Wisla is a great team with a long and successful history, so when I decided to play for them, I was sure that the 2012-13 season would be the best in the their history, since we had great players on paper before everything started.
"Unfortunately we had many injuries in the team, even before the season started off.
"We never knew who would practice, who would play in the game, and for that reason alone, we were not able to prepare perfectly for almost 90% of the games."
Wisla missed out on successive appearances at the EuroLeague Women Final Eight too, which added to the drama and disappointment. However, Zurowska was eager to just focus and work hard on her own game and for the team - something she will continue to do under new head coach Stefan Svitek.
"It was really difficult, but I just stayed focused on my shape, my skills and I was trying to do my best all of the time to help the team," she said.
"I was always ready to play, practice and was staying positive.
"Therefore when I sprained my ankle and it was all swollen and colourful, I just gritted my teeth and continued to do my job.
"This year I wish for my team to have more luck and my goal is the same as the team's to reach the Final Eight.
"If we reach this stage and I am healthy and in good shape, for sure I will enjoy this period.
"After almost two months of practicing, I can also tell that everything has changed," continued the 28-year-old.
"However, it is too early to make a judgement, because we are not fully completed yet, since are still waiting for our WNBA players.
"They mean a lot in each team.
"I have really enjoyed preparation time with the Slovakian athletic coach Marian and we have done many tiring exercises, which for sure will help us to be strong, athletic and to avoid injures.
"Coach Svitek showed us what kind of basketball he wants us to play. He has got many ideas and I hope that we will follow them, because only with this kind of attitude can we be successful."
She added, "After last season, I know that this is not the right time to evaluate other teams in our group.
"There are never any weak teams in EuroLeague Women, so I expect that we will produce some good women's basketball for our fans."
SLUGGING IT OUT WITH POLKOWICE
As well as competing in EuroLeague Women, Zuroska and Wisla will try to somehow wrestle back the domestic crown and initiative from arch rivals CCC Polkowice following on from some bruising and fiercely brutal match-ups last season.
"It's well known all around the world that women's basketball follows men's and the game has become more physical and aggressive," stated Jurowska.
"There are many athletic women players who could easily compete with men.
"For all of us, it was a short time to get used to this.
"The Polish League has changed and we have many American players who have a big influence on the level of the Polish League.
"Fortunately this season, there can only be three in each team.
"When I look at the squads of each Polish club, I suspect that all games will be hard.
"We need to stay concentrated to be able to play in the finals, especially now that the rules for the play-offs have also changed."
GOOD TIMES IN GORZOW
Zurowska enjoyed many memorable years playing with Gorzow and was even named a EuroLeague Women All Star a few seasons ago during her most productive campaign. Having recently headed back there in the Polish League, it brought the memories flooding back.
She recalled, "When I was leaving Gorzow, I told myself that I wanted to be in better teams that Gorzow was at that exact time and Wisla won the game, so it means that I am at the right point in my basketball career.
| Justyna Zurowska missed out on trying to help Poland qualify for EuroBasket Women 2015 via the 1st Qualification Round due to injury|
"I had many good seasons in Gorzow. I was almost growing up with the club and we made progress every year.
"We started in the second division and year by year, step by step, we reached EuroLeague Women and almost won the Polish Championship."
One of the national team players ruled out of action because of injury, Zurowska could not contribute to the efforts of Poland to both rebuild and snap up the one ticket on offer to EuroBasket Women 2015 during the 1st Qualifying Round a few months ago.
ONE EYE ON EUROBASKET WOMEN 2015
Now Zurowska is hoping she will get a chance to play a role when Poland get their second bite of the cherry next year and make up for injury denying her some summer action.
"When it comes to the national team, I am always ready," she declared.
"Sometimes things do not depend on us as players and it's history now, so I do not want to go back to that.
"I just hope and I wish that the Polish team will reach their goal during next summer and we will participate in EuroBasket Women 2015."
Before she pulls on a Poland national team vest, Zurowska will step out for Wisla in Group B of EuroLeague Women, the first game coming at home against Rivas Ecopolis on 06 November.