Martin Eggleston - Spojnia Stargard’s star of the 90s. Helicopter in action and the mystery of Kobylanka PHOTOS, VIDEOS

Grzegorz Drążek, Sebastian Drążek
Do you remember Martin Eggleston, the first American in Spójnia Stargard? He played for the club in Stargard in 1994-1996. He was the idol of many fans. Martin is 54 and is ready to become a Coach of Spójnia. We talked with him and his daughters about the times in Stargard. See also archival and current photos and watch videos. At one of them, Martin Eggleston greets Spójnia’ s fans.

Martin Eggleston celebrated his 54th birthday on January 27, 2021. This is a good time to remind him to basketball fans not only in Stargard. Martin played for Spójnia Stargard in 1994-96, and then for two seasons he played for the club from Szczecin.

11 welcoming dunks

Martin Eggleston was in Poland in the 1990s with the whole family. His fourth daughter was born in Police. We spoke to Martin over the internet. His daughters took part in the videoconference.

Martin Eggleston is the first American in Spojnia Stargard. He came to Stargard in 1994 after the team from Stargard won their historic first promotion to the first division of Polish Basketball League. It turns out that Martin could have played elsewhere and probably wouldn't even have learned about the existence of Stargard.

- Few people know, but before I came to play for Spojnia, I had received an offer from one of the Spanish clubs - says Martin Eggleston. - I promised my wife that I would decide to sign the contract only if I could take the whole family with me. The Spaniards refused to agree to this and I rejected a lucrative offer. They told me I was crazy. My agent broke off cooperation with me. For me, family was a priority and I sacrificed a very good contract for her. I spent few weeks in Germany, where I was promised a contract. They delayed signing it for 1 month and I decided to go home. Then I also received an offer from Stargard. I was very surprised because I did not know that basketball is played at a high level in Poland. I was not convinced of this option. However, I decided to try. I packed my things and flew to the USA. I spent one day with my family, which we spent on packing, and we hit the road to Stargard. From Chicago to New York. Then over-stop in London and landing in Warsaw.

In the capital of Poland, Mirosław Noculak was waiting for a basketball player, at that time a basketball agent and coach, who can now be heard as a commentator on basketball matches. In the 1990s, he cooperated with Spojnia Stargard.

- I asked him: how long are we going to go to Stargard? He replied a couple of hours. In fact, we drove about 8-9 hours, recalls Martin Eggleston. - When we got there, a lot of people were waiting for me in front of the arena and even more inside. I was in shock. Immediately, despite the travel fatigue, I wanted to go out on the floor and play with my new friends. There was a friendly tournament going on and I played the next day. I scored 22 points, made 11 dunks. The fans liked it and I liked the new place right away. I can honestly say that I do not regret my decision to reject the contract in Spain and come to Poland. People were very kind. Not only fans. In the shop, on the street, I was greeted. I felt great.

Keith Williams during his stay in Stargard as a player of Spojnia (1995-97)

Do you remember Keith Williams? Hi is a big part of Spojnia ...

Smell of chlorine and huge mushroom

Martin Eggleston came to Stargard with his family. Back then, in 1994, he did not know what awaited him in unknown Poland. And he had to think not only about his play for Spojnia, but also about his loved ones.

- I was 12 when we came to Stargard - recalls Amber - Martin’s oldest daughter. - My first friend was Karina, girl who lived next door. We are in contact with each other until today. Sometimes we write to each other via facebook. During this time spent in Poland, I had many friends.

Amber admits that the beginning of her stay in Stargard was not easy.

- The beginnings were difficult because I didn't know polish language at all - explains Amber. - I attended school, which was very close to our apartment in the Osiedle Zachod estate. If I remember correctly, it was Primary School No. 13. When I think about it, I can smell chlorine from the school swimming pool. Fortunately, I found great teachers who were understanding and patient. I translated the tasks into English and then translated them back into Polish. The teachers corrected my grammar mistakes. To this day, I understand a lot, although I speak little Polish.

Amber's sister Janee’ has other memories of Stargard.

- I don't remember much from Poland, because I was only 2 years old when I came to Stargard - says Janee’ . - In my memories, there is still a huge mushroom that we used to play in the nearby playground. I remember a bit from the kindergarten I attended in Stargard. When I watch a program on TV and someone speaks Polish, I recognise some words.

SEE ALSO: Martin’s very first interview at school in Stargard

Birthday in the kindergarten and helicopter in action

Tori, Janee's older sister and Amber's younger sister, has a bit scary memories...

- When we came to Stargard, I was in school age - explains Tori. - So I went to school, where I met many friends. The most remembered thing, however, was the playground event. I played with my friends on the slide. It so unfortunately happened that I hit my head on the edge and cut my forehead. I must have made a terrible noise because my dad ran downstairs in record time. It was probably his fastest sprint ever. Everything ended well. Only the scar on the forehead remained. To this day, I have a "memento" of this event. Every day, seeing myself in the mirror, I remember the time spent in Poland.

When Tori had her fifth birthday, there was a cake party at the kindergarten she attended in Stargard at the time. It was a lot of fun. The souvenir of this event are photos of the Stargard’ s photojournalist Tadeusz Surma. You can see them in the photo gallery in this material.

Martin Eggleston also has interesting memories of his stay in Stargard. One of them is even scary...

- At the beginning, we lived close to a sports hall - says the former basketball player of Spojnia Stargard. - Then we moved to a larger apartment in the Osiedle Zachod estate. It was on the way out of the city towards Szczecin. Tyrone Thomas (the second American basketball player in the Spojnia Stargard squad after promotion to the highest league in 1994 - editorial note) moved into the apartment after us. We had a view of a nearby prison from our windows. One day I was really scared. I saw a helicopter and someone was hanging from the rope underneath it. I heard shots. It turned out to be exercises for the prison service.

K like Kobylanka

Martin Eggleston was a basketball player of Spojnia Stargard for two seasons, in 1994-1996. He spent the next two years in nearby Szczecin, playing for the local rival of the Stargard’ s team in the highest basketball league in Poland. During the stay of Martin and his family in Poland, Jedda was born in 1998. Martin’ s youngest daughter. Not many people know how interesting is the story associated with her birth.

- After two years in Stargard, I moved with my family to Szczecin, but we were coming to Stargard almost every day - recalls Martin Eggleston. - We had a lot of friends there and we liked to spend time in this city. On the way to Stargard, we were always stopping for ice cream in Kobylanka. We did it every time we traveled from Szczecin to Stargard. One day my first wife, Deborah, said that if we had another daughter, we would name her Kobylanka. And that's how it happened. When my fourth daughter was born, I went to the civil authority to get her a birth certificate. We named her Jedda K Eggleston. This K is what Kobylanka stands for. Deborah and I decided not to tell her about it until she was 16. It was supposed to be our romantic story.

As the former basketball player of Spojnia Stargard says, giving Jedda K as a name to a daughter, was not easy at all.

- I remember that I had a problem to name our daughter Jedda K, because the clerk insisted that it was not a Polish name and would not agree to it, says Martin Eggleston. - We argued a bit. Then another lady who knew me from basketball courts came to the rescue and helped in obtaining a birth certificate on the basis of which Jedda Kobylanka received Polish citizenship.

Jedda learned the story of her middle name a little earlier than at the age of 16.

- I found out that my middle name is Kobylanka when I was 10 - recalls Jedda. - Until then, it was just K. When the parents' secret was revealed, I searched the internet to find out a bit about Kobylanka. I like this name very much. The passport is no longer valid, but I will definitely go to the Polish embassy in Washington to get a new one.

We heard that the mayor of Kobylanka learned that the second name of the daughter of the former American basketball player, Spojnia Stargard, refers to Kobylanka. However, this was in no way used to promote Kobylanka. Now, a quarter of a century after those events, it would probably have been perceived differently.

- Maybe one day the mayor of Kobylanka will invite Jedda and she becomes the Queen of Kobylanka - laughs Martin Eggleston.

"Yes, but only for the day," Jedda replies.

- Ok. We will make a parade and it will be fun - adds the former basketball player of Spojnia Stargard.

Smashed basketball backboards, visited schools

Martin Eggleston was an idol for many basketball fans from Stargard. The first American in Spojnia Stargard, who also played very effectively, loved to dunk the ball into the basket. Sometimes it even ended up breaking the basketball backboard, as evidenced by the TV recordings ... It all had to be liked by the fans who, after the Stargard club's promotion to the highest league, found themselves in a different basketball reality than before.

- We visited schools with Keith Williams, remembers Martin Eggleston. - We were seeing the children. My daughters Tori and Amber even signed some autographs back then. I'm I talk to young people. I felt a bit like a mentor. I knew what I was saying could have a big impact on these young people. That is why I always gave my best and I was 100% committed.

Martin Eggleston played in the memorable match in Stargard on December 3, 1994 between Komfort-Spójnia and Nobiles Włocławek, which ended with a brawl on the court, and after the game the players from the club from Włocławek left the hall assisted by the police.

- I remember the match with Nobiles Włocławek very well - says Martin Eggleston. It was rumoured that I started the fight with Roman Olszewski, however that is not the truth. He pretended that I hit him, and he flopped to the floor like a soccer player trying to gain a penalty on his opponent. Thank God that a local Television station video showed that. Igor Griszczuk started a fight on the court, which resulted in the disqualification of most players. I was among them too. They locked us in the dressing room, where we stayed until the end of the match, which was played by Iku (Ireneusz Purwiniecki - editor's note), Marek Cieliński and Jarek Dubicki, with whom I later played in Szczecin. I remember that Dubicki was constantly checking stock exchange quotes. He and I talked often about investments.

Opisywane wydarzenia miały miejsce 3 grudnia 1994 roku w Stargardzie

Wielka bijatyka na meczu Spójni. Mówiła o niej cała Polska [ZDJĘCIA]

Eggleston Spojnia’s coach? "It would be great"

It turns out that Martin could have stayed much longer in Poland.

- Like everyone else, I had better and worse moments, but to be honest, I remembered the whole stay in Poland from this good side - emphasises Martin Eggleston. - I even had plans to stay there. I was recommended to play in the Polish national team. Of course, I would have to accept Polish citizenship. Unfortunately, at that time I couldn't have two passports and in order to have Polish I had to give up the American one. I have not decided to take such a step.

After returning to the USA, Martin Eggleston continued his adventure with basketball. From a player to a coach. He currently works at Lorain County Community College. For twenty years he has coached and trained hundreds of players, some who now play in the NBA. He is the head coach of the men's basketball team there. He is also a student engagement specialist and student life adjunct professor. The former basketball player of Spojnia Stargard does not hide that he would like to try his hand outside the USA. And he emphasises that he is ready to work for Spojnia Stargard.

- I have very good memories of Grzegorz Chodkiewicz and Krzysztof Koziorowicz. They were my best coaches and good people - says Martin Eggleston. - If there was ever an opportunity, I would gladly return to Stargard as a coach. It would be great that as a former player of Spojnia, I could become their coach over time. I love winning and I would like to make Spojnia follow the path of victory. If I had been offered, I wouldn't have thought for a moment.

SEE ALSO: Martin’ s video to funs in Stargard

Polish cuisine and souvenirs

Martin Eggleston plans to visit Stargard

- I promised my children that one day we would go to Poland to see the places where they spent part of their childhood again - explains the former American basketball player of Spojnia. - Stargard, Szczecin and of course Kobylanka. Oh, and Police, where Jedda Kobylanka was born.

Jedda would love to go to Poland.

- I was born in Poland, but unfortunately I don't remember anything - says Jedda. - I am proud that my family had such a big influence on the popularisation of basketball in Stargard. It happens that I receive messages on Facebook that my dad was a great player, that he is remembered not only in Stargard, but throughout the country. People remember my sisters. This is incredibly nice. I really want to go there.

Martin Eggleston's family also remembers Polish food.

- I like Polish food. I cook dumplings (pierogi), bigos, cabbage rolls (golabki), red borscht (barszcz czerwony)- Amber enumerates. - I remember that in Stargard I ate the best cheeseburger in my life. I really liked the patties (paszteciki) in the booth next to the train station.

- To this day, I can taste potatoes from the school canteen in my mouth. They were delicious - says Janee’ . - Recently, my dad and I visited a Polish restaurant and had a good Polish dinner. There were potatoes and cabbage.

- I shop at Seven Roses Polish delicatessen in Cleveland (Siedem Róż)- says Martin Eggleston - I buy Polish products. I really like to eat a Polish dinner sometimes and to practice my Polish. I also take my clothes to a Polish dry cleaning service (Elyria Dry Cleaner).

Martin Eggleston's stay in Poland and his play for Spojnia Stargard are evidenced by the souvenirs he has at home. He is also in touch with several people from Stargard.

- I have some souvenirs from my stay in Spojnia - explains the current basketball coach in the USA, and once the basketball player of Spojnia Stargard. - A lot of photos from that period. The poster of me with Tyron Thomas together . The original framed T-shirt hangs in my son Jordan's room. And I have lots of great memories and a few friends. I talk to Bala (Robert Szczerbala - editorial note), Witek (Grudziński - editorial note) and his wife, Ignac (Piotr Ignatowicz - editorial note). And also Andrzej Junak. He wasn't playing basketball, but we became friends.

How does Martin Egglestone remember Stargard after 25 years?

- Stargard is not only the place where I played, I treat this city as my second home, and the inhabitants of Stargard as my family - emphasises Martin Eggleston- Piotr Ignatowicz's mother was like a sister to me. She looked after us like her family. She cooked for us, invited us to her place. It was a really beautiful time in my and my family's life.



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