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Greek Kalaitzakis twins will have U18 opponents seeing double
ATHENS (FIBA U18 European Championship 2017) - Georgios Kalaitzakis cannot wait for the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017 in Slovak Republic. It will be a chance to play with his twin brother Panagiotis while also making Greece a better team because they are on the court together.
The Kalaitzakis brothers last played together three years ago when they were with Greek club Aris Thessaloniki. Georgios is now anxiously awaiting the games to start in Group C, where Greece are drawn with Finland, Lithuania and Slovenia.
"I love playing with my brother. We think the same way, so it's easy for us to play side-by-side. He helps me and I help him," Georgios said. "We think alike and that helps both our team and our teammates. We both want to do what's best for the team in order to win. This is all we want and wish for."
Panagiotis (left) and Georgios Kalaitzakis will play together for Greece for the first time.
When asked what Panagiotis, who plays for Aris but will be making his international debut this summer, does better than him, Georgios said: "He can play better than me without the ball. He reads defense very well and he know how to move without the ball. I believe I am better when the ball is in my hands."
Georgios and Panagiotis are not the only ones in the Kalaitzakis family to play sports. Their sister plays volleyball in the Greek A1 division while their younger brother plays at Aris as well. Their father also played basketball in Heraklion while their mother was a volleyball player on Crete.
"As you can see the three boys took after the father and the girl from the mother. We are a sports family," Georgios said.
Kalaitzakis started playing basketball when he was 12 years old and saw other kids playing the game at a children's camp.
"I liked what I saw. So I decided that I want to try playing myself. The next day I announced to my parents that I want to go to a team," Kalaitzakis said.
He eventually landed at Aris and then moved before the 2015-16 season to Greek giants Panathinaikos, where he got a chance to play with his idol Dimitrios Diamantidis for one season before the legendary playmaker retired.
"I was watching Diamantidis so much. I 'discovered' him when I started playing basketball and I never stopped admiring him. I was lucky enough because I was able to meet him and 'live' next to him in Panathinaikos, being in the same team, a teammate," said Kalaitzakis, who plays point guard as well. "I also admired Theo Papaloukas, because they both can do a lot of things on the court."
Kalaitzakis will be playing for Greece for a third-straight year, including last December at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016, where he averaged 6.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He also got a chance to play alongside Michail Lountzis and Vasileos Christidis, who won the FIBA U18 European Championship crown in 2015.
"They are really good players and they were our leaders last year. They both have this winner's character and I think this is the most important thing to hold on to," Kalaitzakis said.
The 6ft 6in (1.98m) point guard is looking to be a leader in Bratislava and Piestany.
"I am going to try to be as good as it requires to assist my team in everything, both on offense and defense. I will try to be a good leader for my teammates," he said.
Regarding his goal for the tournament, Kalaitzakis said: "Our first target is to get to the Quarter-Finals. I think that if we are focused and we listen to our coaches we will be able to achieve our goal. If we get there everything is open. Nobody knows."
Kalaitzakis does know that he cannot wait to play in Slovak Republic with his brother - and make Greece a better team for that.