The Greek team came to Mannheim without being considered as one of the favorites. The tallest player just being 2m02, it looked like the guys from coach Georgias Vlassopoulos would be punished inside. But it came a whole lot different. Not only that Greece won the tournament, the team featured some very interesting talent, at least for the European level.
Nikos Pappas (1m93 – Shooting Guard – Greece)
What a show by Nikos Pappas it was in Mannheim. The 1990 born guard, who was already with the U18 last summer to win the Silver Medal behind the incredible efforts of Kosta Koufos, was the absolute leader of the team and a well deserved MVP of the competition. With his basketball skills and his leadership, he become a crowd favorite from the first day of the tournament.
I had the possibility to see Nikos in two games during the tournament, unfortunately not his 39pts semi-final party where he scored 11pts in overtime to qualify the Greek team for the Finals. But what I saw was enough to describe you a bit his game. Pappas lives a lot from his drives, mostly on the left. He finishes them near the glass in a sort of fade-away style that draws a lot of fouls and gives him the possibility to go against taller guys. Due to his developed body, he is not bounced around and can handle physical pressure in the paint. Despite being right handed, he prefers the drive of the left, even if he finishes often with his right hand there.
Not being the quickest guy around, he uses a very good footwork and direction changes to get rid of the faster defenders. He reads the defense very well so that he is not dependant on a quick first step. For example, in the game against the USA in the first round, the US defense always let him on his favorite left side, he always recognized it and went to the rim. Due to his good fakes, he gets some open looks and also gets possibilities to pass to the cutters when the help comes.
Concerning his three point shot, the efficiency was ok, but it is not one of his main offensive weapons. Finishing the tournament with 12/40 from behind the arc and 41/56 from 2 point area shows however that he probably goes still a bit too much for the three point shot on which he has of course the range, but he is not a real shooter.
What is more interesting is his presence in the rebound area. 6.7rpg of which 2.85 were in the offense (team best and 6th best of the tournament) show that he is a real factor in this area. Most of the offensive rebounds came of his own (few) misses around the basket.
Pappas showed no real in-between game as he never really had to go for mid range jump shots because he created the situation for himself and went to the basket. He nearly never played the role of the through-the-screens running shooter. Defensively, he showed nothing particular as this was not his role with the team.
Konstantinos Papanikolaou (2m01 – Forward – Greece)
The young forward from Aris Salonici made the biggest step since the last U18 European Championship. Mostly playing the PF position, Papanikolaou will probably develop into a SF in the future. Some compare him with Dimitris Diamantidis and a future at the PG spot which is possible, but for the moment, he is mostly playing on the wing.
Papanikolaou showed good post up moves when he received the ball down low and he used them pretty well for scoring. He can also play facing the basket from the three point line where he can use his good athletic fundamentals. Being left handed helps him of course when it comes to attack the sometimes surprised defenders. He is present in defense where he goes for a good amount of steals and he can even go for some block shots due to his long arms.
His range is until the three point line from where he can hit big shots. With some more work in that area, he can become a very reliable player from more than 6m25 and make himself a very good promise for the SF spot.
Vladimir Jankovic (2m02 – Power Forward – Greece)
Here we have the defense minister of the Greek team. Jankovic, despite a very thin physical presence was everywhere on the court and did the dirty job in a spectacular fashion. Highly athletic, Jankovic often came up with above the rim block shots on help defense and it was him that set the athletic highlights in the game against the United States.
He also goes for scoring and has a already correct three point shot. But his presence in essentially in defense where he was the key man for Greece. A lot will depend on his physical built in the next years if he wants to play in the same register in the Euroleague one day. He has however all the tools to go for such a future in a Georgios Printezis or Panagiotis Vassilopoulos fashion.
Kostas Sloukas (1m92 – Guard – Greece)
Sloukas joined the team only after the two first days of competition but he became more and more important as the tournament went ahead. He had his probably best game at the right moment, in the Final. He took the game in his hands as Nikos Pappas was off the chart during the 2nd and 3rd quarter.
Sloukas showed some very interesting shooting skills, especially from behind the arc. Already physically very present, he uses his body to create spaces on his drives. He shared the guard spots with Pappas and the third rotation Evangelos Mantzaris whose contribution reduced with the improving play of Sloukas throughout the tournament.
Leonidas Kasselakis (1m98 – Center – Greece)
Kasselakis started the games for the Greek team at the Center spot despite being only 1m98 tall and not looking like the world’s best athlete. With his large body, he works a lot in the post but mostly goes for fade away jumpers instead of showing interesting post moves. Because of his size, he will be a very limited player as a Center and has to develop some other skills in order to move his game to the wing.
He has already a three point shot, of which he even sometimes abuses despite a limited accuracy. As he is not very fast nor highly athletic, he has probably the most limited potential of the here mentioned Greek players. But I have no problem if he proves me wrong in a few years.
All pictures are from the official website of the tournament