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GRE - Tired Koniaris ready to join Panathinaikos, work with legend Diamantidis
DUBAI (FIBA U17 World Championship) - You will have to forgive Antonis Koniaris if he is tired and aggravated. Greece's leading scorer at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship came to Dubai just days after helping Greece take fourth place at the U18 European Championship in Turkey - playing nine games in 11 days.
Koniaris is one of four Greece U17 players who were at both tournaments - along with Vasilis Charalampopoulos, Giorgios Papagiannis and Vasilis Mouratos - making the U17 Worlds debutants a contender for a podium finish.
But Greece ran into a tough Round of 16 match-up with Australia and were bounced from the competition, moving to the Classification Games 9-16 half of the bracket.
Koniaris is one of Greece's top prospects at the guard position and after a short break, the Chania native will head to his new club Panathinaikos, with whom he signed a five-year deal at the end of July.
He took time to talk about the U18 European Championship, FIBA U17 World Championship, Panathinaikos and the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship.
FIBA: The loss to Australia in the Round of 16 definitely hurts, perhaps you can talk about how hard the team played in coming back and making it close in the end.
Koniaris: We came back but we didn't achieve the win. I don't know if we're tired. But we want to finish off with wins and go home.
FIBA: You and three other teammates - Vasilis Charalampopoulos, Giorgios Papagiannis and Vasilis Mouratos - were also at the U18 European Championship. How tired are you guys?
Koniaris: We are very tired but that doesn't mean anything. We have to play very hard here but we couldn't.
FIBA: Is there a positive that you and the rest of the team can take out of the performances in the Group Phase and Round of 16?
Koniaris: It was good that we were here and played against teams that we never played before. It's a different tournament from the European Championship.
FIBA: How do you think you guys played against the United States, losing by only 10 points while they cruise past everybody else?
Koniaris: It's one game with them but it was a game of a lifetime for us. I don't know if we will play against them in the future. But it was a great game with the guys. They were very good but we tried to beat them. But they always led by 10 points.
FIBA: The best placing Greece can achieve now is ninth place in the classification play. What's the goal for the team over the remaining three days?
Koniaris: I don't know. We want to win every game but it will be hard for us.
FIBA: Moving away from the national team now, earlier this summer you signed a long-term deal with Panathinaikos. How happy are you about that?
Koniaris: I think it's a great deal for me. I don't think I will play in the next two years but in the future maybe I will if I work hard.
FIBA: What are some of the things you are looking forward to with the club?
Koniaris: I just want to be competitive in the practices and give energy to the veterans and play as hard as I can.
FIBA: Is there one or two players you are looking forward to working with and competing against in practice?
Koniaris: Yeah, Dimitris Diamantidis.
FIBA: Of course, talk about him. He's an idol for so many of the young Greek players.
Koniaris: I don't know him personally but Charalampopoulos, my teammate here, knows him very well and he says great things about him and that he will help me a lot. It will be great for me to practice with him.
FIBA: You and Papagiannis and Charalampopoulos all will be with Panathinaikos this season. How much fun will you have next season, practicing with Diamantidis and with your youth national team friends?
Koniaris: It will be great. We have three or four young guys there with Nikos Pappas and Vlantimir Giankovits too. I think it will be very good. I think we will do great with these guys and we will have fun.
FIBA: Olympiacos and Panathinaikos have spent the last two seasons signing young players like you to four and five year deals. What do you think about that?
Koniaris: They are doing this because they want to have young guys for the future when we get better to play in the Euroleague. And maybe right now they can take them with less money than for us in the future.
FIBA: Do you think that's good for you and the others? Or would it be better to play at Panionios or Aris or other clubs?
Koniaris: I would get more playing time there but practice right now is more important than playing five or seven minutes in the first league.
FIBA: What are your goals for the next two or three years?
Koniaris: For me it's to play in the Euroleague. I don't see that right now. Right now it's just to work hard and go as best I can.
FIBA: What are the strengths in your game?
Koniaris: I don't know. Coach will tell me.
FIBA: And weaknesses?
Koniaris: I have a lot of weaknesses. I can't tell you right now. I have to work on everything. Shoot the ball better, work on moves and improve my game.
FIBA: Greece will be hosting the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship, what do you think about that tournament?
Koniaris: We will be a very good team. We have some good 1996-born players like Dimitrios Stamatis. We'll have four or five 1997-born players and we will do the best that we can.