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The new Youth impact at Olympiacos

May 11th, 2012 · 1 Comment

12 games started this Euroleague season, 13 games started this Euroleague season, 56.3% 3pt shooting percentage, 4 games started this Euroleague season. These are the characteristics of 4 players in the Olympiacos roster this season that you might not think of immediately. With lighting up their roster and integrate more local talent, the Greek Final Four participant has made a surprising turn-around and reached the semi-finals of the Euroleague again after their qualification to the Final in 2010. So who are these players that do their job next to the uncontested star Vassilis Spanoulis and the role players like Kyle Hines, Pero Antic or Marko Keselj.

Evangelos Mantzaris started 12 games in his first season for Olympiacos after having played for Peristeri Athens before. Manntzaris made a name for himself with the very successful Greek U18 National Team that won the Albert Schweitzer Tournament 2008 where he was an energizer coming from the bench to be a back-up of Nikos Pappas. Mantzaris has now cracked the rotation of a Euroleague Final 4 team while Pappas, who a force 4 years ago, is playing for PAOK. The 1990 born guard plays more than 15 minutes per game in a very defensive role and comes up with the occasional three-point shot. His development may surprise some people as he was not considered as the best prospect of this generation in Greece but he has clearly made huge steps forward by taking over responsibilities early with Peristeri instead of signing a big contract with one of the two powerhouses early.

Kostas Papanikolaou is already a more common name on the European courts. The wing player of the 2008 Albert Schweitzer Tournament team came from Aris to Olympiacos already in 2009 and earned minutes in the Euroleague right from the start. He has become a quite regular scorer in his particular style on Small Forward and coach Ivkovic gives him the fourth-most minutes of the whole team. With his very efficient playing style and left handed touch, Papanikolaou might even become a reach in the upcoming NBA Draft where a team could use a pick on him in the second round as he has the necessary athletic abilities to be a factor in the United States. He is doing an excellent job moving without the ball on offense which creates good scoring opportunities for himself but also spreads the defense to open the lane for his team mates. The left-handed forward can also put the ball on the floor to attack the basket and he does it with either hand. If he can not go until the hoop, he stops in mid-range territory to pass the ball back out without forcing the shot. When he does not have the ball, he is always ready to shot and can do this rather quick.

The next member of the exclusive Greek 90s club is of course Kostas Sloukas. Stacked a bit in the rotation behind Vassilis Spanoulis, Sloukas made his move on the 26th of January when he hit an incredible buzzer beater from 3/4 court to tie a game in Istanbul and go to overtime. You can say that the more minutes Sloukas plays, the higher the chances are that Olympiacos will win. Coming off the bench, Sloukas is immediately ready to take over and has no fear to score the basketball. He is respected by his team mates that have confidence in him and his playmaking skills. Sloukas is also in his first real Euroleague season in 2011/2012 but he used his season with Aris to earn the necessary experience on the professional level. He is now a serious candidate to make the Greek Senior National team and get a significant role in the next years. But first of all, he wants to win his first major trophy.

Dimitrios Katsivelis was a big factor for the Greeks in the beginning of the Euroleague season where he started 4 games and was on the court in 7 out of 8 contests. But since then, no more minutes for him. He was not a member of the golden Greek Generation of the 1990 borns as he is from 1991. So he was always a year later on than the above mentioned prospects and could not celebrate the same successes than Sloukas, Papanikolaou and Mantzaris. But he showed during the U20 European Championship in Bilbao last summer that he has the potential of becoming an interesting player. He averaged 15.4 points per game and even 1.0 blocks. With his defensive presence, Coach Ivkovic gave him some special minutes in the beginning of the season to close down opposing guards. It is not sure if Katsivelis will make the squad for Istanbul but he is another player of this young Olympiacos team that you have to follow in the next years.

So, 12 games started this Euroleague season, 13 games started this Euroleague season, 56.3% 3pt shooting percentage, 4 games started this Euroleague season, you know now who is who. And it might be a good idea to change your opinion about Olympiacos that is not the star-stacked over-paid roster from the previous years but a team built on the long term with a lot of great prospects for the next years.

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