Giannis Antetokounmpo will play for Greece at the FIBA World Cup for a second time, but much has changed since his debut five years ago.
Antetokounmpo, then 19 and coming off his Milwaukee Bucks rookie season, was a sub in all six games at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Greece was eliminated in the round of 16 and ultimately failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.
But now Antetokounmpo is the NBA MVP, looking to lead Greece back to the Olympics for the first time since 2008.
“I haven’t talked with the coach yet. I don’t know which position I will play in,” he said, according to FIBA. “But I don’t care. I just want to play. Whether I play as a guard or as a center, I don’t care. I’m a basketball player. I want to help the team in every way.”
The top two European teams at September’s World Cup in China qualify for Tokyo 2020. Others can still qualify at a last-chance tournament next year.
Greece, without Antetokounmpo, beat longtime European power Lithuania in the 2017 EuroBasket round of 16 before falling to Russia in the quarterfinals. The Greeks are now ranked eighth in the world, but sixth among European nations behind Spain, France, Serbia, Lithuania and Slovenia.
Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes, both with major college and NBA experience, have also featured on the Greek national team in recent years. Kostas Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ little brother, played for Greek junior national teams before debuting in the NBA for the Dallas Mavericks in two games in March.
Greece, should it advance out of its World Cup first-round group with Brazil, New Zealand and Montenegro, would likely play the U.S. in the second round of group play, where the top two of four nations per group advance to the quarterfinals.
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