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Pelagia Papamichail (GRE)
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Improving Papamichail, Greece return to big stage

ATHENS (EuroBasket Women 2015) - The Greek women's basketball program owes a debt of gratitude to the parents of Pelagia Papamichail.

It was they who recognized at a very young age that their daughter had a sense of adventure and a need to always be doing something.

"I was always active as a child," Papamichail said to FIBA.com.

"So my parents encouraged me to find something that I like, to put my energy there.

"I tried track, volleyball - even ballet," she smiled.

"But basketball was the one that had a place in my heart and I still remember going one-on-one with my dad when he was trying to show me the very basics of the sport."

This is a priceless memory for Papamichail, those early years of discovery of basketball.

Smiling again, she said: "I remember me being tall and clumsy.

But it [basketball] just felt right from the very beginning that this is my sport, my passion - Papamichail

"I also remember staying on the court after practice to play basketball with my friends and my mum looking for me because I was always late to come home."

Clumsy is certainly not how one would describe the play of Papamichail as a professional women's player.

Maybe those ballet lessons had an impact on her because she usually has to rely on good low-post moves and a soft scoring touch to be successful against taller opponents in the paint, especially in the international game.

For example, when she played on the first Greece team ever to reach a FIBA World Championship for Women in 2010, Papamichail had to guard and box out one of the best front-line players ever in the USA program, Tina Charles.

Wearing the No. 10, Papamichail had nine points but the Americans were too tough and won the first of their nine games which ended with a title.

The following year, Greece went to the EuroBasket Women and won their first game in Poland against Latvia, who at the time were led by Greek coach George Dikeoulakos.

But they next lost a 65-63 heartbreaker to Croatia and slipped up against France, 64-55, in their final game, results that prevented them from advancing.

Greece then did not qualify for EuroBasket Women 2013 played in France, although that summer they did win the First Qualification Round for EuroBasket Women 2015.

Papamichail was crucial in 2013, averaging 10.1 points per game on 58.8 percent shooting from the floor to go with 5.7 rebounds.

The veteran says she is a much better player than she was four years ago, when Greece endured their disappointing exit in Poland.

She is older, wiser and with a few more moves.

As I grow older, I try to improve my game - Papamichail

"For sure I am more experienced than I was in 2011 and I am trying to improve my shooting.

"Also, little details have been added to my game since then as I try to suck every bit of information I can from my coaches and from players that I watch playing basketball, [players that] I admire."

If Greece were good in the summer of 2013 while booking their place for this year's EuroBasket Women, they should be even better when the tournament gets underway in Romania and Hungary (11-28 June).

They have been drawn in Group B and will play against Turkey, Italy, Belarus and Poland in Oradea, Romania.

"Yes, we are back and we are excited about it," Papamichail said.

"It was hard for us not to take part in the last EuroBasket so now we can't wait to be at the top level again.

"I can only promise that we'll give 100 percent and even more on the court."

Hard defense, focus and passion are facets of our game that we cannot survive without - Papamichail

There is no doubt that having Dikeoulakos as coach is an asset.

He was an assistant to Kostas Missas at EuroBasket Women 2009 - where Greece came in fifth - before taking the opportunity to lead Latvia.

So there is continuity, although Dikeoulakos is not an exact replica of Missas.

"Every coach is different," Papamichail said.

"Especially George and Kostas Missas are both strong personalities and they give their character to the teams that they coach.

"So it is different with coach Dikeoulakos, but as he used to be an assistant of coach Missas, they share the same philosophy on some parts of the game.

"Also both of them are smart enough to adjust their plans, depending on the abilities of their teams.

"With coach Missas, we had to survive in the EuroBasket with a small rotation so we couldn't run as much.

"If coach George thinks that this team is different than the past one and wants us to run more, we'd love to do it."

For now, Papamichail is busy attaining success with her club side, Ellinikou.

She helped her team win the Greek Cup.

"It feels great to be in the top team," she said.

"Our goals are high. We won the Greek Cup and have the playoffs soon.

"So this is a motivation to try to work hard and be better every day.

"The league competition is not very strong, so there are a few games during the season that are hard for us and this gives no room for mistakes.

"We have to be at our 100 percent best every Sunday so when the time comes to perform, we do our best."

If there are some blowout victories during the season, Papamichail doesn't have it easy during the week.

"The competition is strong during practices," she said.

"We are 10 players [plus two youth] that in another team could play 40 minutes.

"This makes you want to fight every single day to prove that you deserve those minutes on the court, so this is how you become a better player."