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Antetokounmpo keeping level head while improving Greek team
MADRID (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Giannis Antetokounmpo is somebody that the Greek national team has never had - such a mix of length and athleticism. But the 19-year-old has not let his speedy rise from the second division in Greece to the NBA and now to 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup go to his head.
"It feels really good to be here. It's amazing for a 19-year-old kid playing with these (Greek veteran) guys. But I don't want it to stop. It's been great getting this experience," said Antetokounmpo, who is young enough to be eligible to play this summer at the U20 European Championship.
The Milwaukee Bucks forward is coming off the bench for coach Fotis Katsikaris' team and averaging 6.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.8 steals in 16 minutes of play.
"What Giannis can give us is a freshness. He's a young player, very ambitious, very athletic. We don't have this type of style or profile as a player. He's a guy who can help us in many areas - defense, rebounding. Mostly it's about the energy he brings to the team. This is very important," said Katsikaris.
Giannis is very serious for his age. He's very disciplined. He's very demanding of himself. - Katsikaris
Former Greek national team coach Ilias Zouros saw Antetokounmpo a number of times in the United States during the past NBA season and the Summer League. He sees continued improvement in the player.
"He improved because he's sharing the ball. He's doing the extra pass as we do every time in our team, which means he understands the philosophy of the team. He changed his mind immediately coming from the NBA to the European style," said Zouros, who is in Spain working for Greek television.
In the first week of training camp, Antetokounmpo roomed with Nikos Zisis. And the Greek veteran leader was impressed with the youngster.
"That week I got to know him a lot and I understood that everything happened with him very fast, super fast - from the A2 to the NBA," said Zisis.
"He's still young but he's a good kid and he understands it's a long way to go because he's super gifted. Now it's in his hands. I wish him all the best and above all health to keep his feet on the ground because sometimes it's tough with all this attention. If he does that, for him, it's literally the sky is the limit."
Basketball is a game. You have to enjoy it. - Antetokounmpo
When asked how he stays humble, he said simply: "I think my family helps to keep me grounded. Even if you play at a high level, it shouldn't change you as a person."
While he might not be changing as a person, Antetokounmpo is changing and improving as a player - and improving the Greek national team at the same time.