Giving youngsters a chance, playing at home - the major positives of Qualifiers for Greece coach Skourtopoulos
ATHENS (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - Vasilis Mouratos and Michail Lountzis each playing 3 minutes in Greece's first loss in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers may not have made the biggest headlines, but they represent one of the biggest positives of the FIBA National Team Competition System according to Greek head coach Thanasis Skourtopoulos.
The Greek playcaller used the 84-61 loss at Serbia as a chance to give the two young point guards Mouratos and Lountzis their opportunity to play against the World Cup 2014 runners-up.
"To play in Pionir Hall (Aleksandar Nikolic Hall) against the Serbia team, it's a great experience for them. If they use it correctly, it’s going to be a very, very big thing for them," said Skourtopoulos. "They go now to play in Peristeri and Lavrio - two mid-level teams in Greece - and they feel very, very comfortable. That is something that through the windows we can do."
Vasilis Mouratos (seen here at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2017) made his
senior national team debut in the game against Serbia.
In addition to the 20-year-old Lountzis, who played against Estonia in the First Round of the Qualifiers, and the 21-year-old Mouratos, who made his senior national team debut against Serbia, Skourtopoulos also gave playing time to 21-year-old Antonios Koniaris. The PAOK point guard has averaged 1.3 points, 0.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 6.5 minutes in four games thus far.
Giving youngsters a chance to play is not the only good thing about the Qualifiers according to Skourtopoulos. The Greeks have played their home Qualifiers games in two different cities - the first four in Heraklion and the latest in Patras.
"TO PLAY IN PIONIR HALL (ALEKSANDAR NIKOLIC HALL) AGAINST THE SERBIAN TEAM, IT'S A GREAT EXPERIENCE FOR THEM. IF THEY USE IT CORRECTLY, IT'S GOING TO BE A VERY, VERY BIG THING FOR THEM."
"For us it was very good because we went around to different Greek cities. We had full gyms. We played great games," Skourtopoulos said. "I think the game is coming closer to the fans, closer to the people because the team is playing three or four times every season and not only the summers. So everybody can see the team, everybody can support it. And all the situation I think is positive. The result is positive."
Greece have already booked their ticket to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 - their fourth straight appearance at the global spectacle. They came into the Serbia game still undefeated and now have a 9-1 record atop Group L. Their final two games in the February 2019 window will be at home against Georgia and at Germany.