A2 Basket League: The real heartbeat of Greek basketball

Giorgos Kioussis watches A LOT of Greek hoops. But has been bored of the A1 League due to its rather predictable outcomes, and not to mention that everyone plays a supporting role to Panathinaikos and Olympiacos EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. So Giorgos invites you to witness the real heartbeat of Greek basketball. The A2 division.

It is quite sad that in many countries, the National Basketball Championship is degraded and not enough attention is given to the sport resulting in either low quality teams with no big names to mention, or in other cases, huge amounts of cash spent making clear that money can buy success, a conclusion that is not welcome from the majority of the fans.

In Greece, the situation in the Basket League is not better as Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, the big spenders, have managed to be at least two-three levels above each other opponent making them the only contenders for every local title, including the Cup that a few days ago remained “Green” for another year. And that is not the only issue, since almost every team makes its roster around a talented American who couldn’t find his way to the basketball scene of his country, setting aside many local players looking to grab a chance to shine.

Unfortunately not all teams have the chance to fight for a European ticket too, as some clubs from remote places of the country or even clubs from Athens, don’t have a homecourt that follows the regulations and as a result they are brought to play in Athens, having less than 300 fans watching their efforts.

Maroussi BC enjoyed an unexpected run in the EuroLeague in the 2009-10 season, before bowing out in the Top 16 stage. Photo: EuroLeague Basketball.

The best example was Maroussi some years ago that managed to play the EuroLeague while coached by Georgios Bartzokas and having players like Kostas Kaimakoglou and Jamon Gordon. However they played at OAKA since their place hardly had space for 2000 people. Despite the team’s great run, even making it to Top 16 were they defeated Panathinaikos and Partizan, the income was too low resulting in the team soon being eliminated. Another example of that was Kolossos Rhodes where around from 2010-2014. They built a very strong roster, had coach Dimitrios Priftis on the bench but the fact that Rhodes is located on the southeast of Aegean Sea, close to Turkey, stopped the team from getting a higher spot in the play-offs, as playing in Athens for the European cups would be a total financial disaster for them.

Finally, some of the clubs following the two giants, have little to no luck in chasing a EuroLeague ticket so their budget and money spent is way less since they know it will be almost impossible to reach the Final 4 of the play-offs and fight against the powerhouses Panathinaikos or Olympiacos for a spot at the Finals.

And while the Greek Basket League seems to be facing such troubles, only one division below, many once-upon-a-time giants like Iraklis, Panionios, Pagkrati and Amintas all fight for spot in the A1 league. It is a fact that the history and power of many of these teams, or some found even lower such a Near East, Milonas and Peristeri can significantly upgrade the Major League’s quality and bring back some of it’s lost shine.

The second division of Greek Basketball, A2, provides the fans with exactly what they missed. Big talents from across the country, future stars for the national team, taking part in a competitive league, with a big price, especially for the prestige of the clubs playing there.

Also many players that used to be big names for A1, for many years now, find good contracts in teams of the lower division such as Pelekanos (Panionios) Gagaloudis (Iraklis) and Manolis Papamakarios (Doukas, ex-Faros Keratsiniou) among many others, still able to offer the fans some highlights or even much needed leadership in a tough league.

A quick look at the standing right now can make clear that again this year the championship is going to be a nail-bitter just like last year. Despite ditching their entire roster from a successful last year, Panionios tops the league table with only one defeat from Doukas, that stands second right behind the leaders with one defeat more.

Iraklis is not far away having the chance to bounce back in the second round, playing both Panionios and Doukas at home. That does not mean that the leading teams should not pay attention to many dangerous teams that can be found lower in the standings but are equally hard to beat. Faros Keratsiniou achieved to capitalize on their last year success after reaching the Cup final, beating PAOK at home for the semi-finals but still they have a long way to go in order to come closer to the two top spots.

The Greek A2 League provides fans with excitement unlike the predictable A1 division. Photo: HEBA

Pagkrati may already be in a very tough spot (bottom of the table) but still Arkadikos, Kavala B.C., Irakleio B.C. and G.S. Larissas are involved in a close battle to stay up. In all that, it can be said safely that all teams in-between don’t give up a single game aiming to reach a higher place or avoid any trouble.

And that is a result of the division’s system where the first team is promoted to the Greek Basket League, the teams from 2-5 will fight for one more spot during post season and relegation is also not so easy to avoid. The two bottom teams are relegated while the teams from 11 to 14th spot will try to secure the two tickets to next year’s championship post season as well.

It is also really enjoyable to see how well many coaches deal with tough situations, without putting aside that most of them are less experienced or even freshmen looking to make their first steps through the fire and heat of the Greek A2. The country has always had a history of players and coaches making a name for themselves throughout Europe and the second division is where most of them begun.

Finances in the league play major role since the teams with bigger budget managed to recruit more experienced and well-known players early on but one thing that is clear is that the difference in the teams is not as visible because of economic differences because the incomes are low for all the clubs, but what actually sets teams apart is the amount of work at training, the reactions of the coaches in-game and the personalities of the players, that are built alongside their clubs.

After all that being said, the only way to prove myself right is to mention that Eurohoops TV on YouTube provides live streaming of many games and a fair archive from this season, giving us all the chance to watch and even support the efforts of the teams offering a competitive and refreshing championship despite the difficulties along the way.