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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 December 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 DECEMBER 2016 25 SPORT Using disappointment to fuel success Giannis Antetokounmpo credits preparation in practice as a huge key to taking such a huge leap forward with his play this season Giannis Antetokounmpo showed his true colours when the Bucks moved him to point guard. PHOTO: SBNATION.COM NICK METALLINOS Giannis Antetokounmpo is talented enough to be as good as some of the NBA's greatest players. That's what his current coach Jason Kidd, himself an NBA champion and ten-time All-Star, thinks of the young Greek. "We have special players that we come across," Kidd said. "LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan. And Giannis is one of those rare players we'll be able to enjoy for a long time. He's 21 years old doing a lot of things that a lot of us can't do. That's special." Antetokounmpo has been sublime this season, putting up career-high numbers almost across the board. His scoring is up to 22.4 points per game from 16.7 last season. He's shooting at his most efficient rate as well − making 52.3 per cent of his field goals, while also grabbing 8.1 rebounds and dishing out 6.1 assists (second on the team behind Australian Matthew Dellavedova). He seems to be fulfilling his potential as a doeverything star which could very well set him up to become Greece's first representative at the NBA's AllStar game in February. Antetokounmpo credits preparation in practice as a huge key as to why he's taken such a huge leap forward with his play this season. "Reps. Shoot 20-30 minutes before practice, and after practice," he said. "Just [shooting] with confidence, that's the main thing. Concentrate on my follow-through. Confidence is the biggest part of shooting." If Antetokounmpo wants to continue improving his shooting and offensive arsenal he could do worse than look to Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, one of the finest shooters in league history. Antetokounmpo said he's spoken to the German about possibly working out together next summer. "I saw [Nowitzki] in Dallas," he said. "I saw his [shooting] coach and he told me they're working out in Germany and he can come wherever I am, or I can come to Germany and work out with him. That's the invitation right there. Hopefully between my schedule with the national team and the Bucks I’ll be able to make the trip." Antetokounmpo was drafted as a talented but very raw rookie with the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA draft and coach Kidd believes that now, in Antetokounmpo's fourth year in the league, he's finally understanding how to play the game at a high level. "If you look at what he's done for us up to this point, you can see he's got a lot of confidence in the hard work that he's put in over the summer," Kidd said. "He feels comfortable at the point-guard position and setting the table for his teammates. On the defensive end, he's being him − blocking shots, getting steals, rebounding the ball. "He's done everything we've asked him to do, and he's taken it a little farther each time, so we're excited about that." It was a bitter-sweet summer for the young Greek superstar, however. Part of the reason why he had so much extra time to work on his individual game was Greece's failure to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio. Antetokounmpo is using the disappointment of that to fuel his current surge in the NBA. "Everybody wants to represent their country in the Olympic Games, [now] we gotta wait four more years for the next one," he said. "It was hard for me seeing people play in the Olympic Games and me just sitting on my couch watching them play. That was the hardest part about it, but we're gonna have another chance in the next four years, and hopefully we make it then." Kosta Koufos believes the national team has a bright future The Greek basketball star speaks to Neos Kosmos as he looks forward to next year’s Eurobasket NICK METALLINOS Koufos hasn't let the disappointment of Greece's failed Olympic qualification in July linger, and remains positive despite the results. "We can't look at it as a lost opportunity, we just have to build off of it," Koufos told Neos Kosmos. "We can't get down, we just have to turn the page and move on to the next chapter. That's what the biggest thing is. I feel like, to find success, you have to learn from your mistakes and grow." Greece has been on the precipice of a great era in men's basketball in recent years, but now with the development of Giannis Antetokounmpo as a bona-fide NBA star, Koufos be- lieves with the right mix of youth and experience, a potential Golden Era of Greek basketball awaits. "From a standpoint of [Olympic] qualification, we didn't do as well as we should, but we had a young team," said Koufos. "We can't make excuses, though. It was good for some of those young players to get that exposure, to know what it's like to play in serious games like that. For us [national team], it helps build the foundation for the future. In a couple of years we're going to be very, very good." After losing in the quarter-finals to eventual champions Spain at Eurobasket 2015, the Greeks will have another opportunity for redemption at next year's tournament to be held in Finland. The Greeks were drawn into Group A, alongside Poland, France, Finland, Iceland and Slovenia. Koufos, who made his return to the Greek national team at Eurobasket '15, has not yet committed to national team duties for 2017. "It's truly a blessing to be a part of the Greek national team [but] I'm taking it day-by-day," he said. "We've got good teams in our bracket, but for now I'll just focus on the NBA which is very important." The NBA is where Koufos makes his living, signing a four-year, $33 million deal last season, so he can be forgiven for putting all his energy into that. This past summer Sacramento also added Georgios Papagiannis, a 7'2" giant with huge upside for the Kings, who drafted him knowing that he would be a long-term project. Koufos had taken Papagiannis under his wing before the young Greek was sent down to the NBA's Development League to work on his game in late-November. Koufos believes the move will have a positive effect on Papagiannis. "You don't look at it as demotion, you look at it as opportunity," said Koufos. "He works hard, he's got good hands and he's very talented. He's a big body and you can't teach height. A lot of potential … he's still only 19 years old. "He's got a good work ethic and he's a good kid, so all those intangibles will pay dividends for him." Kosta Koufos PHOTO: SACRAMENTO KINGS.
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