Things seem to keep getting better for Polish champion Stelmet Zielona Gora, which is set to make its Turkish Airlines Euroleague debut in the 2013-14 season. Zielona Gora comes off its best season ever, in which the team reached new heights both in domestic competitions and outside the Polish borders. Led by Walter Hodge, Quinton Hosley, Oliver Stevic and Dejan Borovnjak, Zielona Gora shocked most experts in its Eurocup debut season. The team survived the regular season with a 3-3 record highlighted by a prestigious road win over Unics Kazan. Once in the Last 16, Zielona Gora won three games and only missed out on a ticket to the elimination rounds on a tiebreaker. Hodge earned weekly MVP honors twice, was the 2012-13 Eurocup's top scorer and was chosen to the All-Eurocup Second Team. After its continental run ended, Zielona Gora placed second in the Polish League regular season and swept its playoff semifinal and final series against AZS Koszalin and PGE Turow Zgorzelec, respectively, to win its first-ever Polish League title. Zielona Gora, which translates as “Green Mountain,” is a city in western Poland, just 60 kilometers from the German border. The club can trace its history back to 1946, when it played in local competitions based around Poznan. By the early 1960s, Zielona Gora was among the best teams in its region and had begun developing young talent too. In 1967, under the name Zastal, the club moved up to the national level of competition. Coach Tadeusz Aleksandrowicz made history by leading Zastal to the top league in Poland for the first time in 1984. The team’s run in the top league lasted until 1996, but after just two seasons down, Zastal returned to the top until 2001. However this time, relegation hit hard and Zastal fell to the regional northern league. When the club’s future seemed darkest, Raphael Czarkowski led a group of basketball enthusiasts, who took control of the club. Zastal rebounded into the second division, but toiled there for seven years, often coming close to achieving promotion, but always falling short. Until 2010, when led by Coach Tomasz Herkt, Zastal placed second in the league and completed its return to the top level. Hodge arrived prior to the start of the season and soon developed not only into Zastal’s leader, but one of the best players in the league. Despite missing the Polish playoffs in 2010-11, the team reached the Polish Cup final in 2011-12, finished the regular season in fourth place, knocked off Energa Czarni Slupsk in the playoff quarterfinals and put up a fight against perennial champion Asseco Prokom in the semis before bowing out. Zielona Gora used that experience to do better than ever last season and enters the Euroleague as the Polish champion. The goal now is to keep growing as a club by facing the best squads in continental basketball.
Polish National League: 2012-13