Greece aiming to get back on track at U20 European Championship
AGONAsport looks ahead to the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship in Tel Aviv, Israel where Greece are hoping to enjoy success.
Following the disappointing FIBA U19 World Cup in Heraklion, this is a chance for Greek youth basketball to get back on track. At that competition, the under 19 national team struggled to gain any momentum, finishing in 10th position of the classification after only claiming three victories in seven matches.
There is hope of a better result at the U20 European Championship in Israel. In the past, Greece have won this competition on three occasions, earning the gold medal in 2002, 2009, and 2017. Incidentally, head coach Giorgos Limniatis has included two players in the roster who participated at the recent U19 World Cup in Heraklion: Giorgos Arnokouros and Nikos Chougaz.
However, on a more negative note, Greece endured a poor tournament at the 2018 FIBA U20 European Championship in Germany. In the group stages, the Greeks conceded bitter defeats to Germany and Israel, before suffering elimination in the Round of 16 against Italy. Greece contrived to finish in 13th place.
Sixteen teams - split evenly into four separate groups - will participate at the tournament. Regardless of the results in the group phase, all 16 countries will qualify for the knockout phase, with the teams with the best records subsequently taking on the supposedly ‘weaker’ teams based upon the group matches. Greece have been placed in Group D with Lithuania, Slovenia, and Poland.
Head coach: Giorgos Limniatis
Ahead of the tournament, Limniatis held a press-conference with the media, explaining the problems which he faced when forming this team:
“Unfortunately, we have encountered injury problems, in particular with Konstantinos Kampouridis who is one of our leaders. He hasn’t been feeling 100% during our preparations. In Turkey, we also had health issues with Dimitris Moraitis and Giorgos Kamperidis.
During the preparation process, we called up a number of players from the under 19 team, however Periklis Bazinas and Stratos Voulgaropoulos are sadly injured. Due to fatigue, Nikos Arsenopoulos and Emmanouil Chatzidakis can’t be here, so we decided to summon Giorgos Arnokouros and Nikos Chougaz instead.
Our aim is for everyone to see that Greece has an identity, a philosophy and a specific style. The first thing I asked of my players was for them to give 200% in each training session. We have confidence in the guys, we’ve built up good mutual understanding and we’re satisfied with their efforts from day one. The first match is important in terms of our psychology.”
Giorgos, one of the two Kalaitzakis twins in the squad, has displayed potential with Panathinaikos. Taking into account the high competition within the Panathinaikos team, Kalaitzakis was only given a limited amount of chances with the Greek champions, but the 20-year-old guard has proven that he boasts plenty of talent. Kalaitzakis averaged 4.33 points, 1.33 rebounds and one assist in the Basket League playoffs with the Athenians. This competition represents a chance for Kalaitzakis to show his capabilities even more.
Former Panathinaikos boss and American Hall of Famer, Rick Pitino, expressed his belief in Kalaitzakis with this Tweet:
Giorgos’ twin will also be expected to take a leading role. Unlike his brother, Panagiotis is not a member of the Panathinaikos organisation, as he plays his basketball in the Holargos region of Athens. In the past season, the guard competed in 19 matches with Holargos BC in the Basket League, helping the club qualify for the playoffs with an average of 1.58 points, 1.16 rebounds and 0.21 assists. Kalaitzakis began his career in Thessaloniki with Aris before transferring to Holargos in the summer of 2018.
Similar to the Kalaitzakis brothers, Moraitis has vital experience of playing at senior level. During the 2018/2019 season, the 20-year-old guard made a grand total of 28 Basket League appearances for AEK, gaining an average of 2.39 points, 1.25 rebounds and 1.32 assists with the Kitrinomavri reaching the semi-finals of the competition. Moraitis featured in AEK’s run to the quarter-finals of the Basketball Champions League while also winning the 2019 FIBA Intercontinental Cup in February.
Group D schedule for Greece:
Greece - Slovenia, 13/07, 14:15*
Poland - Greece, 14/07, 20:30
Lithuania - Greece, 15/07, 16:00
*All start times listed are in accordance with Greek time
12-man Greece roster for the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship in Israel: