Players bring all sorts of things with them to training camp. From the normal like clothes, family and food to the more obscure like video game systems, special hair products and embarrassing backpacks. (OK, the latter is just for the rookies.) While in many ways Marcin Gortat is like any other athlete, there is one thing he brought with him that is unlike any of his teammates.
No, Gortat didn’t bring wild animals, exotic accoutrements or any other overly eccentric items with him to San Diego (at least none that we know of). What he brought was something of a less materialistic nature. He took with him to camp the memories of his summer trip to Afghanistan to visit with Polish troops stationed there and the impact it made on him.
“It was one of the biggest experience of my life,” Gortat said with a serious tone to his voice. “I was able to see the true warriors, military equipment and a lot of different things in a country like Afghanistan. The trip was to just go and say a few good words about our soldiers. It was just to thank them for everything they’re doing and take two or three hours out of their time to try to make them laugh a little bit and put a smile on their faces.”
Although the intention was to go and affect the troops in a positive way, it sounds like the soldiers may have made as much of an impact on Gortat as he did on them.
“I think it was necessary,” he said of the trip. “We don’t have too many people there. Honestly, I took this out of American culture, the athletes going to visit their troops in the bases. I’m happy I was able to do it. I learned a lot about the conflict in Afghanistan. I’m really proud of our soldiers.”
From the sounds of it, there is a lot of reason for the center from Poland to be proud of the troops from his home country.
“Polish troops are doing a lot of things like building hospitals, schools and roads,” he explained of what he saw. “They’re helping bring the civilization back to life. It’s huge what they’re doing. It’s amazing. They’re doing a lot of tough work. Hopefully, one day, it’s going to work.”
Memories aren’t the only thing Gortat brought back from the trip by either. He received patches from each of the divisions stationed there as well as numerous military uniforms. Although, we’re not quite sure how many uniforms they have lying around for a 6-11 soldier.
While players bring all sorts of things with them to training camp from the mundane to the bizarre, Marcin Gortat brought something extraordinary. He brought a greater appreciation for the hard work and dedication troops from all countries bring to their job. A lesson that he and many of his teammates have already been applying on the court at University of California San Diego.