08 - 16
August 2014
Vasileios Charalampopoulos (#15) and Georgios Papagiannis (#14) (GRE)
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GRE - Talented Greece thinking development just as much as podium

ATHENS (FIBA U17 World Championship) - Greece will likely have a roster loaded with high level talent at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship.

But the Europeans will head into the competition looking to develop those young players just as much as grabbing a spot on the podium.

At least that's the point of view of coach Dimitrios Papanikolaou.

"Greece are always good at basketball, but we don't have a lot of great players at the young ages as before except some exceptions," he said.

"But the key for this age is to not only have a good tournament but to try to discover two, three kids who are going to play in the senior national team."

The long-time Greek international - a veteran of two Olympics, the 1998 World Championship and four European Championships - has been given the task of shaping the next great generation of Hellas hoops.

"We want to give them a good mentality and to see if they have the skills to play at a big club and the senior national team," said the assistant coach of Greece's senior national team from last summer's EuroBasket.

Papanikolaou is expected to have a trio of leaders at the U17 Worlds in Dubai from 8-16 August in the shape of Georgios Papagiannis, Vasileios Charalampopoulos and Antonios Koniaris. Alongside them will be a number of players with strong potential as well.

But one issue for the Greeks is that Papagiannis and Charalampopoulos and perhaps others from the 1997 class will play for the U18 team this summer as it hopes to qualify for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship.

"Some of my players will miss some of the preparations and all the friendly games and I will only see them two or three days before the tournament in Dubai. This is a problem, but we also have to give importance to the under-18 team. I knew it from the first day and I accept it and will deal with this," Papanikolaou said of the U18 European Championship, which runs from 24 July-August 3.

The coach isn't putting lofty goals on his team going to Dubai where they will take on the United States, Philippines and Angola in Group A.

"At the last European Championship, we were third. Now they are at a higher level and hopefully they will keep this level for this tournament," he said.

"We don't have a target of let's be fourth or fifth. It's the World Championship. It's different than the European Championship with more tough teams from all over the world. Let's see."

When asked what his team needs to do to be successful, Papanikolaou said: "To have a clear mind in the crucial moments, always, no matter what. Even if you are men or junior men or cadets, the last five minutes are key to how good you will be.

"Basketball is a wonderful sport but one second can make you happy or disappointed. Every detail is important and one second is like a life. The concentration in last five minutes has to be high to make this go well."