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9 Ioannis Bourousis (GRE)
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Bouroussis: Events like U19 World Cup broaden players' horizons

ATHENS (Greece) - Ioannis Bourousis knows what it’s like to play at and win a youth national team competition for Greece. The FIBA U20 European Championship 2002 champion also knows what it’s like to play in Heraklion as he played in four games during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers in Crete, which will host the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019. And the veteran star knows the up-coming global spectacle will be a major event for all the players involved.

Bourousis teamed up with the likes of Vassilis Spanoulis and Nikos Zisis in taking the U20 continental title in 2002 in Lithuania. The 35-year-old Bourousis experienced first hand how the bond of playing with the youth national team can become long-lasting as he won the FIBA EuroBasket 2005, played at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010 and took third place at EuroBasket 2009 alongside Spanoulis and Zisis. Bourousis talked to fiba.basketball about the up-coming FIBA U19 World Cup, which will be hosted in Crete for a second time following 2015.

Heraklion hosted the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2015

What do you think about the fact that such a big event is being hosted in Greece again?
Greece has proven time and again that it knows about competitions, building on the experience and the knowhow of everybody who has worked on events all these years. The Hellenic Basketball Federation has organized World Cups and European Championships, and all of them were successful. Some of them even featured some very good results for the Greek teams. It’s not just that though. We are talking about people who love and embrace basketball, we are talking about the proper arenas and the very good conditions concerning food and hotels for the athletes. Basketball has managed to become part of Greece, and this is also the case for any such event.

How can participating in such a competition benefit the young players?
I have no doubt about this. Competing at the highest possible level, getting to know other countries and different styles of basketball, being able to get a direct opinion about your level and the others’ level is something that can broaden your horizons and motivate you in the best possible way. It’s also important for the kids to gain international experience that will help them in the process. So, it’s good to have this “base”, this experience at such a young age.

Nikos Zisis (left), Ioannis Bourousis (middle) and Vassilis Spanoulis (right) played together for Hellas for more than a decade at the youth and senior national team levels.

What did it mean for you to play for Greece at the youth national team level?
I have experienced all the above myself. I saw what’s out there. We had a really good team, we gained medals and friendships were built. It’s another important part of this route. Many friendships, even if you never play in a club together with your teammate in the national team, will be friendships for a lifetime. It’s something that happens again and again.

Jayson Tatum (No. 11) was one of the stars of the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2015.

Would you recommend to someone to attend these competitions?
Yes, absolutely! No discussion on that! They can see really good basketball at these age groups. Maybe they are a little more “free” -  a little more … pleasant to the eye, since for a lot of these kids it’s still just a game, and it shows when they go out on the floor. They enjoy it! At the same time, fans will have the chance to see some of the names that will take over the stage in the years to come. In Crete they will make their first big step and it’s nice to witness it. Just think that in 2015 in Crete we saw players like (Ivica) Zubac, (Jayson) Tatum, Josh Jackson, (Jalen) Brunson, (Furkan) Korkmaz, (Dillon) Brooks …  all of them are in NBA right now. But there are players who have their own careers in Europe too, and we saw a lot of Greek players too. It’s their first big step on the international scene.

Ioannis Bourousis playing for Greece in Crete during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers.

You have competed in Crete yourself with the Greece men's national team. What is it that leads basketball there, to the island again and again?
Crete is ideal as a place for such competitions. From the simplest things such as the climate and the city itself to the most important for a team like the arena, one of the best and most beautiful in the country. There is the air conditioning, the hotels, the food and of course the people who know what a team needs for a practice, for a game, at the hotels, or the transportation. These people are present in Crete and in the Hellenic Basketball Federation. We experienced it with the men’s national team and I am sure everybody who plays in Heraklion for a game or a competition feels the same way too.