Giorgos Papagiannis claims Greece would beat Germany if they meet again

Giorgos Kyriakidis
Staff Writer
2022-09-27 08:05

Giorgos Papagiannis talks to BasketNews about the challenges of the upcoming season with Panathinaikos BC Athens, his personal development, and Greece's takeaway from the EuroBasket. 

Credit: FIBA
Credit FIBA

Giorgos Papagiannis didn't get to play much in the recent EuroBasket. The 25-year-old big man was coming off a long period of abstinence due to a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for several weeks and forced him to miss Greece's preparation games and practices. 

Coach Dimitris Itoudis considered all parameters and decided to include Papagiannis in the 12-man squad that traveled to Milan for the group stage and Berlin for the final round.

The former Sacramento Kings center averaged 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest in less than 18 minutes, which would have been more had he been completely healthy. 

Georgios Papagiannis

Georgios  Papagiannis
Team: Panathinaikos Athens
Position: C
Age: 25
Height: 218 cm
Weight: 125 kg
Birth place: Marousi, Greece

Greece presented an unbeaten streak (6-0) until they faced hosts Germany in the quarter-finals. After a promising first half (61-57), the Greeks suffered a meltdown in the third quarter, losing the rebounding battle (5-20) and allowing Germany to gain a huge lead thanks to a partial score of 20-1. The final score was 107-96 for Germany, who went on to win the bronze medal. 

Papagiannis and Greece, on the other hand, saw another ambitious expedition go to waste. Does the new captain of Panathinaikos BC Athens look at the EuroBasket that way? Not at all. 

"What we can keep is that this team became a family. We cared for each other, and we were all going for the same goal. It's something I'd like to see again in the years to come," Papagiannis told BasketNews during Panathinaikos' media day that officially drew the curtain on the 2022-23 campaign for the Greens. 

Credit Vangelis Stolis

As with most players whose teams advanced to the tournament's knockout stages, Papagiannis took some days off before joining PAO's preparation.

Despite missing practices and lacking game rhythm, he participated in the recent Pavlos Giannakopoulos tournament, which was held at OAKA in memory of the club's former president. 

Papagiannis will definitely need some time to get to know his new teammates. However, the EuroBasket is still quite fresh in his memory. 

"There's something in knockout games that makes you feel so close to your goal - and so far away at the same time. Those games don't necessarily give you a medal or anything. We had a bad momentum, and Germany was going through an excellent momentum," he explained. 

Despite Greece's total collapse in the third quarter, Papagiannis is confident that things might turn out differently if the two teams were to meet again. 

"If you asked everyone on the team, they would tell you that they would like to play that game again, right away," he said with confidence. 

"I think if we were to play against Germany again, we would win. However, the way they played throughout the tournament and the medal they won proves they're a very good team," he added. 

But right now, the focus has shifted from the national team to club competitions. After finishing 13th in 2022, Panathinaikos hope to have a successful season on all fronts. 

"As I see it from the few days I've been here, everyone is hungry to bring titles to the team. Whether we succeed or not will be seen in the end," Papagiannis thinks. 

In fact, until last year, Panathinaikos had been the holder of a unique record. The six-time EuroLeague champs had won at least one major domestic or international title since 1998.

That streak came to an end in 2021, as archrivals Olympiacos Piraeus lifted both the Greek Cup and the championship title. 

Coming from a season in which nothing was gained, and much was lost, Panathinaikos' fans are eager to watch their team add more silverware. 

"Regardless of how you've played in the season, winning titles is all that matters," Papagiannis holds.

"I wouldn't say we're obligated to win because I don't like it as a word. It's too strong. But we do have a responsibility to bring titles, for sure. It was bad for us that last season turned into a monologue for Olympiacos," he conceded. 

Papagiannis is currently in his second stint with PAO and seventh year with the club overall. He joined the Greens in 2014 at 17. Current Panathinaikos GM Argyris Pedoulakis was the first who helped him showcase his talent.

On January 6, 2012, at the age of 14 years and 6 months, Papagiannis became the youngest debutant in Greek league history, suiting up for Peristeri against no other than Panathinaikos.

After over a decade, during which he became the highest-ever NBA Draft pick from Greece, the time is ripe for him to take over as PAO's captain.

"It's been a long time. A few days ago, I was thinking that I've grown up in this club, which I have loved and which has loved me back. It's time for me to be the team's leader, regardless of how it happened. I'm delighted about it," the Greek international stressed with enthusiasm. 

As Panathinaikos are the second-youngest EuroLeague team, only behind Partizan, it's one of the captain's duties to bridge the gap between two generations of players - those who have played at the highest level and those who still need to get their feet wet.

"I know what it's like to grow up in this club, on and off the court. This year, we have many players with plenty of experience. Whatever the younger guys might lack, the older players should be able to provide," Papagiannis replied. 

For the experienced big man, progress and development have been some of his steady companions for the past seasons. Having been labeled as a big talent when he was a teenager, Papagiannis struggled to find his place in the NBA between 2016 and 2018.

When he returned to Panathinaikos, signing a five-year contract that's due to expire next summer, some thought he could end up being a lost cause. 

Credit Vangelis Stolis

Four years later, he's arguably the best big man in Greece and one of the most dominant centers in Europe, as his All-EuroLeague Second Team selection would suggest.

Although Papagiannis had started to show some spurts of an ascending career with Rick Pitino in charge during the 2018-19 season, his offensive and -mostly- his defensive arsenal has been significantly enriched over the last couple of years.

He's become stronger, more agile, quicker, and more capable of guarding switches and isos. 

"I saw a difference in my performance when COVID first hit, in 2020," Papagiannis confirmed.

The athlete from Megara, a region located around 40 kilometers from central Athens, had to do some introspection during a period of standstill. 

"That's when my routine and everyday life stopped. I had more time to think about many things, not just basketball. I explained to myself some things I had to pay more attention to.

I thought about how I can make myself stay longer on the court, improve my physical condition, jump better. I changed many, including my diet. From that point on, I've constantly added more elements to my game."

All told, Papagiannis' career has been on a clear upward path. PAO fans wish they could say the same about their team this year. 

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