Giannis Antetokounmpo (GRE)
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Antetokounmpo brightens future for Bucks, Greece

MILWAUKEE (NBA/EuroBasket) - By virtue of winning EuroBasket 2005, reaching the Final at the following year's FIBA World Championship and finishing on the third step on the podium at EuroBasket 2009, Greece proved to be one of the most competitive national teams in the first decade of the 21st century.

Led by Dimitris Diamantidis and Theodoros Papaloukas, the Greeks were known for their incredible team spirit, which helped them achieve one of the most memorable wins in the history of international basketball, when they beat the USA in the Semi-Finals in Saitama eight years ago.

However, since the two legends retired from the national team, Greece have struggled somewhat, with their best performance in recent years being a sixth-place finish at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania.

At this past summer's FIBA Basketball World Cup, the Greeks got off to a great start in winning all five of their Group Phase games in Seville's Group B, before losing to eventual finalists Serbia in the Round of 16.

The team coached by Fotis Katsikaris can look to the future with optimism thanks to  talented youngsters such as Houston Rockets rookie Kostas Papanikolaou and Milwaukee Bucks phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Playing in his first senior level national team competition at Spain 2014, 'The Greek Freak' averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Now in his second NBA season, Antetokounmpo has continued his steady improvement, building on his selection to the 2013-14 NBA All-Rookie Second Team.

The 2.11m do-it-all player - who turns 20 on 16 December - is averaging 11.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for a Milwaukee Bucks team that is currently in the playoff picture, having won nine of their first 16 games. caught up with Antetokounmpo to talk about the 2014-2015 NBA season and reflect on the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

FIBA: The Milwaukee Bucks are off to a great start. Are you surprised by the way things have been going for your team so far?
Antetokounmpo: To be honest, I am not really surprised by our good start. We have been working well during the training camp and the coach has been giving us a lot of confidence. Everybody wants to do better than last year when we lost a lot of games. It feels so good to win games now. We have a great roster and every player is focused on team work. It is just the beginning of the season and we still have a lot of room for improvement.

FIBA: Your coach Jason Kidd has been letting you run the offense by playing you at the point guard position during some games. What has that been like for you?
Antetokounmpo: I feel comfortable playing at every position, including point guard. My size is not common for a point guard, but I think that I can sometimes have the ball and run the offense. I am still learning a lot about that position, but I like to dribble and play for my teammates as a point guard usually does. Also, I can learn a lot with coach Kidd as he was one of the best point guards in NBA history. It is important to be an all-around player.

FIBA: You played your first senior competition last summer by taking part at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. What did you learn from that experience?
Antetokounmpo: Taking part in that competition was an important goal for me as I always want to play against the best of the world. I had an incredible time playing with my national team in Spain. I learned every day by being with my teammates and my coaches. I am just 19 years old and sharing time with great players such as Ioannis Bourousis, Kostas Papanikolaou and Nikos Zisis was amazing. That experience made me become a better player.

We have to be proud because we are building a great team for the future - Antetokounmpo

FIBA: Can you talk about the team's run in the tournament.
Antetokounmpo: Our first round was great. We won every game in a very tough group and we played well during our first five games. Unfortunately, Serbia, who played at an incredible level against us, eliminated us in the second round. We were disappointed because we gained a lot of confidence during the first round and we had hopes of maybe reaching a medal.

FIBA: Do you think that Greece can be as competitive as they were 10 years ago?
Antetokounmpo: Absolutely. The national team hasn't been winning titles and medals for a few years now but I am sure that we will win something soon. We have a very good roster that includes some veterans such as Bourousis, Georgios Printezis and Zisis - who are among the best European players - and we are having more and more Greek players in the NBA. We a lot of talent and if we keep working that hard, we will soon be able to compete against the best teams of the world.