Monday, August 24, 2009

The curious case of Kostas Papanikolaou

One of the hottest names in the Greek and also the European market, is that of youngster Kostas Papanikolaou(2.01-SF) of Aris Thessaloniki. Papanikolaou at the age of 19, is on the verge of doing something that has never been done before in Greece and perhaps Europe. He started playing this summer with the U-19 National Team of Greece winning the silver medal in the U-19 World Championship in New Zealand, losing to the USA team in the final. Then he proceeded playing with the U-20 National Team in the U-20 European Championship in Rhodes winning the gold medal against France in the final and now he is practicing with the Men's National Team, while his chances of securing a spot in the final roster that will travel to Poland, are more than

After losing Panayotis Vasilopoulos(2.03-SF/PF) to an injury and with Dimitris Diamantidis(1.97-PG/SG/SF) and Theo Papaloukas (2.00-PG) deciding to take a break this summer, Jonas Kazlauskas found himself in a troublesome situation trying to fill the SF spot. The 3-guard formations are almost out of the question and currently his only option for an actual small forward is that of Stratos Perperoglou(2.03-SF), who plays for Panathinaikos. So here comes Kostas Papanikolaou, the MVP of the U-20 European Championship and one of the biggest hopes of Greek basketball, (along with Kostas Koufos(2.16-C) and Nick Calathes (1.98-PG)) that seems to be adapting quite well to the team play of the National Team of Greece and Jonas Kazlauskas seems to be even more inclined to take him with the rest of the team to Poland. If Papanikolaou manages to do that then it will be a first for any player of this age in Greece, if not Europe.

This morning, there were reports from sports media in Athens about the imminent sale of Kostas Papanikolaou from Aris to Olympiakos or Panathinaikos. This information was then replicated in a "chinese whispers" fashion to almost every other sports website in Greece. Among other things it is written, that the president of Aris, Ioannis Damianidis, is on his way to Athens to discuss the alleged sale of Kostas Papanikolaou. Ioannis Damianidis is obviously heading to Athens to discuss next season's television rights for Aris in order to secure the best deal for his team and also to see Kostas Papanikolaou play in the Acropolis tournament with the rest of the Greek National Team against Lithuania, Serbia and Russia.

So when the president of Aris was asked earlier today by a sports radio station in Thessaloniki, about the possible sale of Papanikolaou, he replied that there is no offer for Papanikolaou on the table from any team and that he cannot comment on rumors. Because that's what they are.. just rumors It has been made clear in other times in the past few weeks that Papanikolaou is not up for sale to any team, but the consensus today among Greek websites that replicated the rumor is that there is
an offer from Olympiakos in the region of 600,000 euros and of course Panathinaikos want in on the player as well(as if they wouldn't) and they're both ready to battle it out and see who's got the biggest wallet. And this is not the first time this is happening. Shortly after the National Team of Greece stepped onto the podium to receive the Gold Medal for the U-20 European Championship the rumors in sports media were flying right left and center..

The fans of Aris, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos are left in a state of disarray unable to determine if the so-called news they're reading about Papanikolaou are reliable or a publicity stunt that was staged on the back of Kostas Papanikolaou and his talent. From a purely calculative point of view it would be really dumb to sell Kostas Papanikolaou at this stage of
his career where the player needs all the playing time he can get. Being benched in Olympiakos or Panathinaikos or appearing in the roster every 2 or 3 games will damage the player's chances to further develop his talent.

Leaving that aside, Kostas Papanikolaou has become a fans' favourite for Aris in the last 2 seasons and in him they can see a future leader for their team. He is also a big fan of the football team of the club. Admittedly he hasn't received significant playing time with the men's team but he managed to win the U-18 Championship in Greece playing for Aris alongside Spyros Mourtos (1.99-SG) and other future star of Greek basketball, Linos Chrysikopoulos (2.07-SF/PF). Also let's not forget to mention that during the last 12 months the player worked with the coaching staff of Aris on his physical condition and he is now able to compete at men's level. So if the administration of Aris decided to sell him they would create one of the biggest disappointments in the ranks of their fans just when things started getting better for Aris . In other words, they'd be shooting themselves in the foot..

Whatever happens, Kostas Papanikolaou must look forward, work on his game and shut his eyes and ears to all those rumors that are flying around. The best is yet to come for him.
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