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Mike Taylor (USA)
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Poland aim to be the best

BYDGOSZCZ (EuroBasket 2015) - The fans of Poland's national team have learned the hard way in recent years that high expectations do not always bring positive results.

At the EuroBasket in Slovenia two years ago, the Poles showed up in Celje full of determination and optimism yet despite the presence of terrific players like Marcin Gortat and Maciej Lampe and an experienced international coach in Dirk Bauermann, they failed to get out of the opening round.

Everyone in Polish basketball is hopeful that this year's EuroBasket in France will be different.

"It's important in anything that you do that you learn from your experiences in the past and try to be better for the future," national team coach Mike Taylor said.

"The important thing for Poland for me and for us moving forward is to build on what we've started last summer.

"We built a great team chemistry, a great core of young players."

It's important we put our players in position to maximize their potential and be the best they can be when it matters the most. - Taylor

Taylor hit the ground running in 2014 when he guided Poland into EuroBasket 2015 with five wins in six qualifying games.

His team got contributions from numerous players.

None was more important than Adam Waczynski.

The shooting guard, who is now 25, turned that positive experience into a big first season in Spain's Liga Endesa with Obradoiro.

He even won the MVP honor for Week 32.

Taylor was an assistant coach for the Czech Republic at EuroBasket 2013 and saw plenty of Poland since the teams were in the same group.

He says much can be learned from Poland’s past participations in the recent big tournaments.

The Poles hosted EuroBasket 2009 when they were coached by Muli Katzurin and had both Gortat and Lampe and exciting forward Michal Ignerski, just to name a few of their players, and advanced to the second round but came up short of the Quarter-Finals.

In 2011, they played well without Gortat and Lampe and very nearly got out of the opening round group but fell in a do-or-die game to Great Britain.

"We've studied the experiences of the last EuroBaskets," Taylor said.

"We've talked a lot and discussed a lot about the ways we can be better.

"We want to maximize the potential of our team, building on the core of what we had, what we started last summer."

One of their most significant results was an upset of Germany in Bonn.

The coach thinks it's important to have lofty aims and that's even with hard games in EuroBasket Group A coming up against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, France, Israel and Finland in Montpellier.

"Our goals are very high because whenever you enter a competition like the EuroBasket, you want to set your goals high," he said.

Our dream goal is to win the European Championship. - Taylor

"We know that's very very competitive.

"But you have to set your goals high to reach high goals.

"That's our purpose. Our purpose is to find a way to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro."

To reach Rio, Poland need to make it to the EuroBasket Final.

Otherwise, a third-, fourth-, fifth- or sixth-place result would get the Poles to the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

"We're going to maximize our team and reach our potential and see where that goes," Taylor said.

In qualifying, the Poles swept Germany and only lost to Austria, 83-81.

"I've got a long of confidence in our guys," he said.

"We know everyone in the tournament is very, very good, but we're a serious team and we are setting our serious goals and are going to maximize our goals."

Taylor also stressed that he is going to do what is best for the team, and that means that players who have big reputations are not necessarily guaranteed spots on the EuroBasket roster.

"We have to make decisions not only about the talent of the players, but we've got to make decisions about the players that will fit best into our team," he said.

"So chemistry will be a huge concern for us.

"We want to learn from the experiences of the past with the Polish Basketball Federation and the players and personalities involved, and we want to pick out the most talented players that can make the best team.

"Basketball is a team game and you've got to build your team as such, so we'll be considering all of these things."

 Go to eurobasket2015.org for full coverage of EuroBasket 2015.