Eighteen months ago, Giannis Antetokounmpo was an up-and-coming 18-year-old toiling in the obscurity of the Greek second division. But even if he was still an unknown to NBA fans, he should have already been a fixture in the Greek youth system except for one small problem: despite having been born and raised in Greece, he didn't have a Greek passport...or any passport for that matter.
All that changed a little over a year ago, when his promise on the court paved the way for his family to finally receive citizenship and for Giannis to become the Greek national team's hottest young prospect. And after making his international debut at the U20 European Championships last summer, all signs suggest that he's now just weeks away from making his senior Greek debut ahead of the upcoming FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Of course he's not there quite yet--first he has to survive the team's training camp and make the final roster. Giannis departed Vegas a couple days early to join up with the Greek senior team's camp, though if you follow Giannis or the Bucks on Twitter and Instagram you probably already knew that:
Με το νεο μας μέλος @G_ante34! pic.twitter.com/2v1I4LYMJA— Nikos Zisis (@nik683) July 24, 2014
Photos of @G_ante34 training in Karpenisi for the FIBA World Cup " http://t.co/KI4uUpm09x pic.twitter.com/2QLfXcs8WK— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 25, 2014
Meanwhile in Greece " http://t.co/KXzUuadkzB pic.twitter.com/hnCpmmcbJs— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 25, 2014
From the Hellenic Basketball Federation's official Youtube page:
Greece opens World Cup group play on August 30 against Senegal, and it seem increasingly likely that Giannis will be on the the final 12-man roster that night. Based on feedback from our Greek friends (thanks to commenters like George B., ozografos, Bourito and others), it appears likely that Giannis will have a chance to compete for minutes at the small forward spot with Barcelona star (and Rockets draftee) Kostas Papanikolaou. Fingers crossed.
With a new coach and a number of key veterans missing, Greece is more of an unknown quantity than usual this year, having only qualified for this year's World Cup after their wild card application was among the final four selected by FIBA. All that has tempered Greek expectations considerably, though a thinner roster should stand to benefit a younger player like Giannis, who would be at least four years younger than every other guy on the preliminary Greek roster.
Here are the provisional exhibition and World Cup schedules for Greece--we'll have much more info over the next couple weeks.
Exhibition Games (all times central - to be confirmed)
Aug 8, 11.00 am: Serbia
Aug 9, 1:30 pm: France
Aug 10, 11:00 am: Croatia
Aug 16, 11:00 am: Lithuania
Aug 17, 9:15 am: Slovenia
Aug 18, 9:15 am: New Zealand
Note: I've also seen suggestions of a two game home-and-home between Greece and Turkey August 20/22, but haven't confirmed that yet.
FIBA World Cup - Group Play (Central Time)
Aug 30, 1:00 pm: Senegal
Aug 31, 1:00 pm: Philippines
Sep 1, 1:00 pm: Puerto Rico
Sep 3, 1:00 pm: Croatia
Sep 4, 3:00 pm: Argentina
- Miroslav Raduljica is expected to represent Serbia, which will be playing Greece in a friendly on August 8.
Serbia National Team first meeting @krle12 #Spain2014 pic.twitter.com/KWywafDvL8— Miroslav Raduljica (@mraduljica) July 9, 2014
- Ersan Ilyasova (Turkey) and Carlos Delfino (Argentina) will not be in Spain as they work to get ready for the upcoming NBA season. Having not played competitive basketball since suffering a foot injury during the 2013 playoffs, Delfino was in Vegas working out with the Bucks training staff during summer league, while this week Ersan instagrammed a picture of his workouts at Coastal Performance in Florida.
Ers working hard to get ready for the season! #OwnTheFuture pic.twitter.com/K4wfG77Aek— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 25, 2014
As for Delfino? Well, I don't really know if or how he fits into the Bucks' plans at this point. His $3.25 million deal is only guaranteed through this coming season, and at this point he figures to start camp behind Giannis, Middleton and Parker for small forward minutes and possibly Giannis, O.J. Mayo and all of the Bucks' combo guards (all four of them) for minutes at the 2. The old Delfino could always give you floor spacing and an honest defensive effort, but let's keep in mind that once camp rolls around he'll be 32 and around 18 months removed from competitive basketball. That would seem to make him tough to move even on an expiring deal, though he could be used as filler in a bigger trade or simply be bought out in order to get the Bucks' roster down to 15. Thanks to the stretch provision, the latter option could also spread his $3.25 million cap hit over the next three years, potentially clearing an additional $2 million in cap space this year.