After three years, a period in which he lifted the Basketball Champions League, the Intercontinental Cup and one Greek Cup, Giannoulis Larentzakis recently decided to close the chapter called AEK Athens in his career, willing to open a new one.
Where? No one can be sure, but as the 25-year-old guard confirms at TalkBasket, his future plans revolve around the highest level of European basketball. Valencia Basket has reportedly been in talks with his side, but for now Larentzakis is focusing on a first-ever participation in a major tournament with the Greek National Team. The FIBA World Cup is the next challenge for the Kythnos-originated baller who seems to have secured for himself an almost certain spot in coach Thanassis Skourtopoulos’s final squad.
Q: It’s been roughly six weeks since you finished the season. What’s your situation?
A: I’m very well, full of energy and ready to give the maximum to the National Team. The atmosphere is nice, we all mix up very well together, the chemistry is there and we are at a good level right now.
Q: What level of competition do you expect in the World Cup?
A: I’m sure the level is very high. This is one of the most powerful World Cups because there will be some very good players showing up, mainly from the NBA. I hope that we will be at a satisfactory level because we have a good team.
Q: You’re one of the players who participated in the qualifying phase. What did you gain from the process and what conclusions can we draw regarding the depth of Greek basketball?
A: I won a lot of things by playing at the WC-qualifiers. I’m sure they were only beneficial to us. I think there were only positive elements. We had a very good cooperation with everyone and we reached the goal of qualifying. On a personal level, this experience gave me confidence and got me immersed into a new environment. All the guys on the team are getting better every day.
Q: What’s the objective of the team?
A: I don’t want to set high goals now. We will take one game at a time and see where we can go. These tournaments are a little weird, so we have to look at each game separately, as a final, in order to progress. It’s too early and we’re only looking at our first-phase group. We know that Turkey is one of our potential rivals in the second round, but I want us to set short-term goals first. If we achieve them, we can move on.
Q: Do you think that the road to the final is open, given also Team USA’s absences?
A: The U.S. has some superstars missing, but the rest of their players are very good and high-level. Things will be tough for their opponents, but in a single game anything can happen.
Q: How do you think that the Greek team can reap the greatest benefits from the presence of Giannis Andetokounmpo;
A: Giannis is one of the world’s top three players right now. He’ll help us a lot, but we have to help him too. How this is going to work? We will find out on the court.
Q: Observing the Greek team as a spectator up to 2017, what were they missing?
A: Most certainly the long-distance shot and in some cases it was the details that made the difference, considering that two years ago in Eurobasket we lost to Russia. So the details will judge both our course and how far we will go.
Q: Since your name remains popular in Greek basketball talks, what is the next day-team in your career after AEK Athens?
A: I was released from AEK on mutual consent of both sides. We had some problems, which we left behind. Right now I’m free and moving on.
Q: When you say problems, what do you mean? Were they financial?
A: This is between me and the team, and I don’t wish to expand. Everyone has their own personal opinion on what has happened. I believe that my time with AEK is over. I am a player with the expectations and the ambition to play at the highest level possible. I think it’s time I took the next step. AEK respected that and I thank them very much.
Q: Is it true that you are close to a deal with Valencia?
A: There’s been some talk, but nothing definite yet. I’m very focused on the National Team and I want my mind to be here. The issue is being taken care of by my manager, Giorgos Dimitropoulos and his associate Giorgos Panou. They’re doing a good job and I fully trust them.
Q: So the goal is to play in the EuroLeague next year?
A: To move on to the next level. Surely, EuroLeague is my target.