INTERVIEW: “The Greek Deac”
AGONAsport’s Sarantos Kaperonis sat down with Wake Forest and Greek basketball player Dinos Mitoglou to talk about his stay in North Carolina, basketball in the states and in Greece, and his future career plans.
Dinos Mitoglou or the "Greek Deac" joined Wake Forest in 2014 from Aris and since then, has made 75 starts averaging 9.3 PPG with the Demon Deacons. The 21-year old also helped Greece reach the semi-finals of the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships and has a very bright career ahead. He just finished his junior season with the Division one school based out of Winston Salem, NC and he sat down with AGONAsport to discuss his career, his stay in Winston Salem, and his future plans.
AGONAsport: So Dino, you have been in Winston Salem for almost three years. Have you liked your stay in Winston Salem?
Dinos Mitoglou: Over the years it has become all the more entertaining. At first, it was hard for me as I come from a big city [Thessaloniki], but over the years I met more people, many Greeks, and I began to enjoy the city more.
AS: What kind of adjustments did you have to make to adapt to living in the United States?
DM: The hardest thing for me to overcome was the time change to the daily routine. As you know in Greece, we wake up at 9-10 but here in the United States everyone is up and going from 6-7 AM. Also, the times they eat here threw me off at first. In Greece we eat lunch at 2-3, here they eat at noon. They eat dinner early at 5-6 PM while I was used to a much later dinner and with practice at night, that messed up my schedule . These changes were the hardest at first to overcome but I got used to it after a few months.
AS: Of course a big move to another country can be challenging. Did the Greek community of Winston Salem make your transition to the USA smoother? If so how?
DM: Yes, they were UNBELIEVABLE. I owe a lot to the Greek community of Winston Salem. They helped me when I knew no one here and they all went above and beyond to help me get settled. I didn't expect such a big Greek community when I first came here. The Greeks in Winston are tremendous people, have amazing families, and truly showed me filoxenia when I came. In all honesty, if they did not support me as much as they did, I could have very well left and returned to Greece. I thank thank them for everything they have done and continue to do for me.
AS: Based on your stay so far, how do you see the preservation of Greek culture, ellinsmo, in the USA?
DM: To be honest, the Greeks here uphold the Greek customs and traditions better than what we do back home in Greece. For example, everyone fasts here during lent. You will rarely see someone that is not fasting whereas in Greece no one fasts. Everyone goes to church here, with their families, as the church is a place where everyone from the community can come together, catch up and relax. It is a great thing to see. There are many events throughout the year around the Greek community including the annual Greek festival here in Winston Salem where the kids performance traditional dances for the public, and at a very young age, which is something we unfortunately don't see in Greece.
AS: You have completed three season in Division I basketball. What are the differences between College basketball here in the USA and basketball in Greece?
DM: Athletes here in the United states are more athletic, stronger, and faster than in Greece. The transition game is much quicker and the overall tempo of the game is faster. While in Europe the game is more focussed around the shot and details. The players there are technical.
AS: Did you have to adjust your style of play to adapt to college basketball in the USA?
DM: For the most part I kept my overall playing style when I came to the United States. I did want to improve my overall play, adding a better post game and playing with more strength. I had to improve my dribbling, my shooting, and passing as these are all a must to succeed in today’s sport.
AS: Do you think your experiences in the NCAA and Wake Forest have better prepared you for your career?
DM: For sure. Very very much. I have played 110 games here in three seasons whereas players my age in Greece that play at a professional level, don't get to play as many games. This allowed me to get playing time, gain valuable experience, and play against great athletes. The division we are in, we see many players going first round in the NBA draft and we play at the highest collegiate level in the country.
AS: Wake Forest is a big "basketball" school and you have surely made some great memories here. However, What is your most memorable moment while playing with Wake Forest?
DM: Without a doubt when we qualified for the NCAA tournament. We defeated Louisville at home which ultimately secured our place in the tournament, that was a great moment.
AS: You are up and coming as one of the future prospects of Greek basketball. What do you think about the current state of Greek basketball and its future?
DM: Greek basketball has always been and always will be at a high level. Other than football, basketball is the most popular sport in Greece. Greece has 5-6 very good club teams but the remaining teams are at much lower level, however our national team is at a very high level. Additionally, basketball in Greece has a great future with many young talents coming up.
AS: The Eurobasket is coming up and we all have high hopes of a good Greek run in the tournament. Any idea on how far you think the national team can go in the upcoming Eurobasket?
DM: We have a lot of talent and many new players are coming. If not this year or next year, our Ethniki will develop and be in the world’s top-5 teams consistently. As for the upcoming Eurobasket, we are very strong and I am confident that we can finish at least in the top-5.
AS: You have played for Greece's youth national teams in the past with great success. Any idea if you will be called up to the national team for the upcoming Eurobasket?
DM: Members from the federation [EOK] came in December and said there is a very good chance that I will be called up to the national team’s pre-selection roster for the Eurobasket. It is a huge honor to represent your country. Even if I am not selected in the final 12 man roster, a call-up to the 18-men pre-selection roster is a great honor and achievement for me personally.
AS: Now about your future... Do you see yourself staying in the USA for another season with Wake Forest or moving back to Greece?
DM: Listen, I am in college and have my fourth year coming up. I plan to come back for my senior year, get my diploma and then we will see where my career takes me.
AS: Despite your plans to stay with Wake Forest, what clubs have shown interest in signing you?
DM: As of now, top European and Greek teams have shown interest in signing me, however my intentions are to continue with Wake Forest for my final season.
AS: Your teammate on the national team Tyler Doresey was recently drafted in the NBA and last year Georgios Papagiannis was drafted by the Kings. Is your dream to play in the NBA, either via the draft or after a few seasons in Europe?
DM: Yes, why not. My dream is to play in the Euroleague and of course the NBA in the future.
AS: We understand that you will be going back to Thessaloniki for the summer, any plans?
DM: I am going to go see my family and friends since I have not been home for over 1.5 years. I am going to enjoy them as much as I can. Then I will prepare myself for a possible call-up to Greece’s pre-selection roster for the upcoming Eurobasket.