Ioannis Papapetrou asks fans to be patient with him and Papagiannis

Giorgos Kyriakidis
Staff Writer
2022-11-03 15:00

Ioannis Papapetrou, who will face Panathinaikos with Partizan for the first time since he left the club last summer, talks to BasketNews about his former and current team, Zeljko Obradovic, Giorgos Papagiannis and the Greek NT.

Credit: Vangelis Stolis

After five seasons with Olympiacos Piraeus (2013-2018) and another four (2018-2022) with Panathinaikos Athens, Ioannis Papapetrou decided to leave his home country Greece to join forces with Zeljko Obradovic at Partizan Mozzart Bet Belgrade

This development came as a shock for everyone, as the Greek forward had another year left on his contract with the Greens, and no exit clause was included in it. However, when Partizan's interest surfaced, he didn't hesitate one bit. 

"It was something unexpected for all of us," Papapetrou, 28, told BasketNews a few minutes after Partizan's evening practice at OAKA, an arena he's extremely familiar with.

Ioannis Papapetrou

Ioannis  Papapetrou
Ioannis  Papapetrou
MIN: 19.13
PTS: 3.4 (38.71%)
REB: 2.6
As: 0.8
ST: 0.2
BL: 0.6
TO: 1.2
GM: 5

The Greens will host the Serbian powerhouse for EuroLeague Round 6 this Thursday night (20:30 CET).

"There was a contract, we all thought I would continue here, but things didn't happen like that," he continued.

"I am happy and grateful for all the years I spent with Panathinaikos and for now being able to play for Partizan," he added. 

Credit Cibona/Marin Susic

Papapetrou was PAO's captain from 2020 through 2022, a time frame that equals half of his stint with the six-time EuroLeague champs. During his time there, he won three Greek championship titles (2019-21) and two domestic Cups (2019, 2021).

The son of former Panathinaikos' forward Argyris Papapetrou says he keeps in touch with his ex-teammates, but there's one in particular with whom he has regular discussions - Giorgos Papagiannis.

The 25-year-old big man succeeded Papapetrou as the team's captain, and the Partizan newcomer says the two have also talked about Papagiannis taking on leadership duties.

"It's a new challenge for him as well, something different. Giorgos and I have a great relationship, and I am sure he'll be very happy and successful in his new capacity," Papapetrou stressed. 

Credit Vangelis Stolis

As Greece was preparing for the EuroBasket, Ioannis Papapetrou had to overcome an injury (hamstring pull) to make the first couple of games in Milan against Croatia and Italy.

With the exception of a terrific second half against the Czech Republic, the Patras-born forward stayed in the shallows and couldn't help the team led by Giannis Antetokounmpo reach its potential. 

For Giorgos Papagiannis, things were quite similar. He missed the entire training camp period, and when he finally joined his teammates, he didn't even remotely resemble the All-EuroLeague Second Team player that fans had enjoyed in the previous campaign. 

Papapetrou and Papagiannis seemed to carry their poor form into the 2022-23 season, as the first few games indicated.

Partizan's premiere in the EuroLeague was accompanied by a heavy 84-100 defeat by ALBA Berlin, whereby Papapetrou played just four minutes, scoring one point on 0/4 shooting from the field.

Some Serbian fans heavily criticized his poor shooting, among other things.

At the same time, Papagiannis was struggling against the likes of Christ Koumadje in Berlin, Hassan Martin in Belgrade, and even in some Greek league games.

The center from Megara has been playing below his usual standards for quite some time. Last year, he led the EuroLeague in blocks and rebounds, but his summer injury left him behind, and he barely made the EuroBasket - just like Papapetrou. 

The former Panathinaikos player thinks it's only logical that the EuroBasket has taken a toll on both. 

"No one's playing on autopilot," he said.

"I try not to think and not focus on why something is happening. Certainly, there is a cause for everything, but for me and Giorgos, both good and bad periods appear when we may not be playing well.

Of course, fans always want players to perform according to the image they've created in their heads. They think players are like robots that come in and always play well on any given night.

Everyone knows who Giorgos Papagiannis is, and I believe that, in time, he will reach the level that he and the team expect of him to be at. He must be able to feel happy and that he's contributing to the squad," Papapetrou maintains. 

Credit Greek Basketball Federation

Ahead of what's slated to be a special game for him and longtime PAO coach Zeljko Obradovic, Ioannis Papapetrou shared some of his thoughts with BasketNews regarding  Partizan, rivalry games in Serbia and Greece, and playing under a legendary coach.

He also touched on the upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, where Greece will face Latvia on November 11 and Belgium three days later. 

What's your most intense memory of four years at Panathinaikos?
Oh, I have a lot of memories. Even in difficult times, whenever I entered the court to play for this team, whether I was in pain or not, whether we were losing or winning, I felt great joy. I have a great love for the club. I've had a lot of good times, and I can't pick just one.

How different is life and basketball in Greece and Serbia?
Everything is good. Life is very nice, and everything is similar to Greece, which has helped my adjustment. 

I miss a lot of things from Greece. I had grown up and lived here since my childhood, except for a few years when I was in the States. Just going out and listening to people speak Greek makes me feel nice.

What is the main feature of Partizan this year?
We start with the coach and the philosophy that permeates the team. We have young guys and some players with experience. We are a pretty dangerous team offensively, with different players who can score and create for themselves and others. When we play as we should, our main weapon is defense.

We play hard, we fight, we are a team. We have proved it in several stretches during games, but we have not done it consistently. This is our identity and the element that will get us as high as possible.

Credit KK Partizan

Do you think Panathinaikos can do something better this year than in the previous couple of seasons?
I don't know, that's always shown on the court. It's a matter of details. There are games you can lose by one point, but if you win them, you have a different picture.

We've seen it happen. I really hope they'll find a way to win games. That's what the club and fans deserve - to watch the team take steps forward in the coming years.

In Greece, there is a great polarization and rivalry between Panathinaikos and Olympiacos. Is the situation in Serbia similar to Red Star and Partizan?
Yes, it is somewhat similar, although I have not played in a derby yet. Greeks and Serbs have a lot in common. The blood flows strongly in our veins. We have strong feelings and love for our clubs. This is a good thing to have, as long as it doesn't cross the line and doesn't sometimes become toxic.

When you were young and watched Zeljko Obradovic coaching Panathinaikos, did you think that someday the time would come to play for him?
No, the truth is I never thought about it. I am very happy to be given this opportunity because he is excellent as a coach and a person. I never thought I'd get the chance to play for this coach.

I am happy for the experience, the opportunity, the confidence the team is showing me, and the chance I've been given to learn from him and work with him.

Have you come around after the EuroBasket?
It's a new situation, a new challenge. It takes adjustment and time. It's a fresh start with a new coach and a new team. Let's not forget that I spent my entire career in Greece.

It's something different. I need to get comfortable with my new teammates. All I can do is work hard every day and be as ready as possible in every game.

What's the future of the Greek national team?
What happened at EuroBasket is sad. It was not the result we all wanted. We lost a game [to Germany], and that hurt us. Basketball is a miniature of life, where everyone can succeed and fail on the personal and the collective level.

In the face of adversity and failure, you have to come out stronger. That should happen with our team as well, in order for us to be more ready in the future.

This team deserves to be successful. We have a very nice atmosphere. We are a family with coach [Dimitris] Itoudis and all the guys. That's why we were even more upset. I hope that if we are healthy, we will achieve even more in the future.

Will you play in the next windows?
I really don't know. It still hasn't been discussed. From what we've talked with the other guys, no one knows what's going on.

There are discussions [being held] between teams, but we hope that we will all be able to be present. Unfortunately, these are things that are out of our control. No one's had contact with anyone. I guess next week we'll know.


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