Athlete of the Issue: Niklas Polonowski ‘23

Sydney Wolf, Sports Editor

Niklas Polonowski ‘23 was introduced to the game of basketball very early in his life, however he truly fell in love with it at the age of 9, and ever since then, he has grown to be one of LT’s most talented athletes. 

The shooting guard recently committed to play Division I basketball next year at the University of Pennsylvania and believes a big reason why he is so successful is because he has been able to maintain the same joy for the game through all these years, Polonowski said. Along the way, he has been fortunate enough to form and strengthen friendships with teammates he still plays with today.

“Some of my earliest memories involve playing with the guys that I’m playing with now,” Polonowski said. “I love watching them grow with me. It’s easy to fall in love with other people’s success.”

Two of the guys he still plays with include Jackson Niego ‘23 and Louis Kaminski ‘23. Niego has been playing with Polonowski for nine years and Kaminski has been playing with him for seven. The two boys that have been by Polonowski’s side all these years have gotten the chance to see him grow and improve not only as a player, but as a person, they said.

“I admire the type of guy Nik is off the court,” Kaminski said. “He always takes time out of his day to check up on everyone and it shows how much he cares about them. I’m going to miss the connection that we have both on and off the court.”

Polonowski spends the time to form that connection with varsity head coach Tom Sloan as well. According to Sloan, Polonowski is a dedicated, hard working, and detail-oriented athlete who is always striving to get better at what he does. Along with that, he is a good communicator who is always encouraging his teammates in practices and games by leading by example, Sloan said. 

“Nik is focused on being successful on the basketball court and in the classroom,” Sloan said. “He has a good sense of humor, he jokes around about things, but he knows when it’s time to be serious.”

Polonowski announced his verbal commitment to UPenn through his social media on Sept. 30. However, he couldn’t have done it without the support system he had behind him, he said. His family plays a huge role when it comes to picking him up when he’s down, according to Polonowski. While his mom is there keeping him on his feet after a bad game or practice, Polonowski’s dad, who played basketball for Michigan State University, is there to push him and keep him working. 

“Nik is very mature,” Sloan said. “While I was talking to different college coaches during the recruiting process, they were all impressed with his ability to communicate with adults, as well as his focus and drive.”

While this will be Polonowski’s fourth year playing with LT and second year on the varsity team, he has a background with other clubs such as Breakaway Basketball, the largest skill development program in Illinois, as well the Danish National Team. He has been a part of Breakaway for four years; however, being on the Danish team, he had to live in Denmark for all of last summer. The experience taught Polonowski new skills and lessons and helped him to form many new friendships that he plans to continue this summer on the U18 team.

The food, the fashion, the slang, the hoops, it was all an eye opener into not only European basketball, but also European culture as well,” he said. “Euro-ball was very fun to play. The skill that was present along with the passion they played with was so contagious and it taught me a lot.”

Being a leader on the team means a lot to Polonowski, he said. However, the way he defines a leadership role is unique, as he believes the position can be established and grown off the court. He’s excited for the underclassmen this year, but as his fourth and final season comes to an end, he hopes the juniors filling in their empty spots next year walk into their last year with dedication and enthusiasm.

“My advice is to just play hard and have fun with everything you do,” Polonowski said. “Give it your all in practices, games, and scrimmages. Don’t take anything for granted, because when it’s gone, it’s gone and you’re going to wish you got it.”