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27 June
05 July, 2015
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High expectations for young inexperienced Greeks

ATHENS (FIBA U19 World Championship) - The core of Greece’s team for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship played at two major tournaments last summer. While that was an invaluable experience, those talented players are not getting big minutes at the biggest clubs in Greece, which is a cause of concern for this summer, especially with the home fans holding high expectations on the team.

The 1997-born Greek players are some of the highest talents in all of Europe and Vasilis Charalampopoulos, Giorgios Papagiannis, Antonis Koniaris and Vasilis Mouratos played at both the U18 European Championship and the U17 FIBA World Championship last summer .

"That was a great experience for them," said Ilias Papatheodorou, who coached those players at the U18 Euros last summer and will lead Greece at the U19 Worlds this summer from 27 June-5 July.

"They will not face anything they have not seen this summer.

"And I hope that will help them to play better and be a better team."

Despite having five important players being underclass at the U18 European Championship - Dionysis Skoulida broke his hand midway through the tournament - the Greeks reached the semi-finals in Konya, Turkey and finished fourth.

The quartet then headed to Dubai for the U17 Worlds and in the first game gave the eventual undefeated champions United States a stern test - losing just 83-73

The Greeks would eventually bow out to eventually finalists Australia in the Round of 16 - a tough out for a team many thought could challenge the United States again later in the tournament. 

"We did have big expectations for the U17 team to reach a high result at the World Championship in Dubai but they lost. Sometimes that is very important, especially for young kids who don’t have experience. I hope that this loss will serve as a big experience for them. It will be a big lesson for them,” said Papatheodorou.

"They will be more prepared to face all the pressure that we will have and react day by day in a better way because it’s a marathon not a sprint. You have to put your feelings behind you the next second after you finish the game. You don’t have time to feel happy or unhappy because you have the next game the next day."

For all the international experience those 1997-born players got, most of them are not getting much playing time in their domestic league. Charalampopoulos has played eight games in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague and 11 in the Greek league for Panathinaikos, while Koniaris has played once in each competition and Papagiannis has three appearances in the Greek A1 league for the Greens. Mouratos has played in three Greek league games thus far for Olympiacos

"We don’t expect them to be starters or in the rotation because these clubs are very strong and have big expectations. Olympiacos and Panathinaikos are two of the best teams in Europe. So the pressure for the results is obvious I think for everybody. So it’s tough for our young kids to get time," said Papatheodorou.

"It worries us. They aren’t getting playing time. If you compare (Turkey’s Furkan) Korkmaz, he’s playing for Anadolu Efes. And a lot of other players from other countries have time with their clubs. This is a problem for us.”

On top of that is the pressure that the Greek team will face playing in front of their home fans. 

"We will have a big pressure. Everybody has big expectations from this generation. And that’s logical because they have the results from the past," Papatheodorou added.

"The fans and the federation have expectations for us. There will be pressure on us but I hope that we can keep the pressure away from our team."