Greece head coach Fotis Katsikaris has opened the lid on many topics involving the national team and during his interview on Greek radio, he spoke about Kostas Koufos, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the bitter rival between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, Greek Basket League, Eurobasket and many more.
Starting off, he declared that the Koufos issue now belongs to the past since the player seems to be ready to join the team once again, but he also stated that it is too early for Koufos and every other player to be taken for granted for the upcoming tournaments.
Since enjoying is first taste of senior international basketball at last summer’s FIBA World Cup, Katsikaris admits that hard-working Antetokounmpo is really excelling in his role with the Milwaukee Bucks, and he is maturing as each day progresses.
“Giannis has all the potential needed,” he said. “He is working hard and he has not understood the fuss that he has caused. I spoke with his coach, Jason Kidd and he told me that he is working very hard, he understands how things work and he don’t have to tell him one thing two times, he hears him and he works on it. He had some problems concerning tactics, but it belongs to the past now.”
The Greek coach also spoke about veterans Vassilis Spanoulis and Sofo Schortsanitis, pointing out that “Kill Bill” wanted to join the team during the World Cup but that was impossible.
“’Big Sofo’ has not yet contacted us, but it is too early to tell whether he will be able to join us or if he will want to,” Katsikaris replied.
Next on the interview agenda was this summer’s Eurobasket and the competitive group, where the Greeks will face Netherlands, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Georgia in the first round.
“It is very difficult for players who play in Euroleague to stay fit,” Katsikaris explained. “If we are healthy, I am very ambitious since our [World Cup] experience made us all more mature, especially me.”
Did Greece learn valuable lessons from their World Cup exit to Serbia?
“We were taught a lesson during World Cup,” Katsikaris admitted, without hinting anything else.
It was then time for Katsikaris to give his opinion on the future of Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, two of basketball’s fiercest rivals in the Euroleague.
“Top 16 is a small marathon,” he says. “Both teams have started strong, Olympiacos seem to understand [coach] Sfairopoulos’ philosophy based on defense, while Panathinaikos has to fight with some injuries that seriously affect a new built roster.
“In Panathinaikos’ group things seem to be shaping up and it is most likely that the four favourites will proceed to the play-offs, Barcelona, Real Madrid Panathinaikos and Maccabi. The game that comes next against ALBA [Berlin] is very important since the team is looking for a big win on the road.”
Now for the other Group, we see a pleasant surprise which is Nizhny Novgorod, Laboral [Kutxa] play good basketball and we also see [that Unicaja] Malaga leads Liga Endesa but still has no win during the group stage. It is a tougher and more competitive group.”
Katsikaris’ Final four predictions? He pointed out that CSKA Moscow is an all-round team that works hard, plus he mentioned that both Real Madrid and Barcelona appear to be unstable mostly due to injuries and roster changes so, Katsikaris avoided a definite prediction.
The final two subjects went more domesticated as Katsikaris spoke with the radio station about the Greek Basket League and in particular, AEK Athens’ return.
“It is very important that Dikefalos is back and is strong with the support of their fans, but also the Greek League is competitive with interesting games,” Katsikaris said. “I know that everyone has in mind how the rivals’ duo will be separated but this needs time and money. For the time being and with the current conditions the teams work under, it is clear we are on the right direction. We can see that with PAOK.”
The host also asked the Katsikaris about his opinion over the statement that Greek coaches are wanted all across Europe. He replied that they are hardworking and have knowledge over the sport. Expect that, they exploit the difficulties in Greece to work and progress not only in tactics but also generally in the way their team works, which prepares them for every possible condition they may face.
And the players in Greece: How are they improving in the eyes of the national team coach?
“They play in high level and there is a new generation that is set to be important units both in national team and of course in our clubs,” he explained. “It is very good to see that many players are undergoing a tight season and I hope during summer we will have a pleasant headache over which players to choose for the upcoming Eurobasket.”