GRE - Exciting times as Antetokounmpo enters senior squad
ATHENS (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Giannis Antetokounmpo played to rave reviews in his first NBA season with the Milwaukee Bucks and now the 19-year-old has a chance to cause a buzz for his country for the first time.
Greece coach Fotis Katsikaris has named the athletic and very talented 2.11m Antetokounmpo, who slots in at shooting guard and small forward, in a 16-man preliminary squad for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Nick Calathes, who had a solid debut in the NBA in 2013-14 with the Memphis Grizzlies, and Denver Nuggets center Kostas Koufos are also in the squad.
Katsikaris will be counting on the experience and leadership of Nikos Zisis, Kostas Kaimakoglou (both Unics Kazan), Giorgos Printezis (Olympiacos) and Giannis Bourousis (Real Madrid), and hoping for solid, all-round contributions from other players who have a lot of appearances with the national team like Κostas Vasileiadis, Vaggelis Mantzaris, Kostas Papanikolaou and Kostas Sloukas.
Notable absentees from Greece's World Cup squad will be veterans Vassilis Spanoulis, Michael Bramos, Antonis Fotsis, Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Loukas Mavrokefalidis and Stratos Perperoglou.
Spanoulis needs to take the summer off to recover from a knee injury while Schortsanitis and Perperoglou met with Katsikaris and explained they did not feel ready to help the national team this summer.
Mavrokefalidis needs to have an operation on his elbow, and both Bramos and Fotsis were simply not invited.
The absences of Spanoulis, Fotsis and Schortsanitis leaves Zisis as the only player in the Greek side to have competed at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, when the country finished runners-up to Spain.
The loss of the 31-year-old Spanoulis is not something Katsikaris wanted, although it is not a surprise.
"I was in constant contact with Spanoulis, who obviously had a great desire to be with us and to help the team," Katsikaris said.
"He has a real passion and has shown that for many years.
"Attempts were made until the last minute, but we agreed that based on the medical data it would be best for him to rest this year."
As for the exclusion of Fotsis, Katsikaris said he had a deep appreciation for what the 33-year-old has done for the country but also expressed the belief that there was depth at the power forward spot and Greece could survive without him.
"For Antonis, it was one of the toughest decisions of my career," the coach said.
"That is a thankless role of coach, especially of national teams...
"I appreciate very much the conversation we had and I thank him for it.
"I made sure he knows the excellent opinion I have for him as a person and as an athlete."
Fotsis made his senior national team debut in 2001.
Those who have been named in the squad, according to Katsikaris, play "modern and attractive basketball" and should make Greece a formidable side in Group B that also has Argentina, Puerto Rico, Croatia, Senegal and the Philippines.
Vasileiadis was in Greece's 2011 and 2012 sides but former coach Andrea Trinchieri did not select him for last year's EuroBasket in Slovenia, where the Greeks came up short of the Quarter-Finals.
Katsikaris coached explosive scorer Vasileiadis at Bilbao and, not surprisingly, has brought him back into the fold.
Georgios Bogris, the leading scorer in Greece's title-winning side at the 2009 U20 European Championship, has been included in the squad after a strong season with PAOK.
Giankovits was another to have helped Greece win the U20 title in 2009.
Greece's players will undergo medicals on 21 July and then depart for Karpenissi the following day to launch their preparations for the World Cup.
Greece 16-player squad for FIBA Basketball World Cup: Giannis Athinaiou, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Κostas Vasileiadis, Vladimir Jankovic, Νikos Zisis, Kostas Kaimakoglou, Νick Calathes, Kostas Koufos, Evangelos Mantzaris, Giorgos Bogris, Ioannis Bouroussis, Kostas Papanikolaou, Giorgios Printezis, Kostas Sloukas and Michalis Tsairelis.