08:50 PM August 30, 2014

SEVILLE – Greece, 11th placer in the 2013 EuroBasket, needed a wild card to make the 2014 FIBA World Cup but no one is underestimating the Greeks here.


No one among Group B competitors in Seville, Spain. And definitely, certainly and surely not Gilas Pilipinas.

The team that stunned a selection of US NBA stars in the semifinals in Saitama, Japan in 2006, Greece is Gilas Pilipinas’ second assignment Sunday ( 2 a.m. Monday in Manila) in its world championship return.


Ranked No. 5 in the world behind the United States, Spain, Argentina and Lithuania, Team Greece is among the tallest sides in the Spanish world meet with an average height of 6-8.

Gilas coach Chot Reyes acknowledges the Greeks are a formidable challenge for everyone with their height, size and good shooting.

What makes them more daunting is their desire to prove that they deserve to be here.

Greece missed automatic entry to the World Cup main draw by its mere 11th place finish in the 2013 EuroBasket. The Greeks bombed out of contention after the second round on losses to Slovenia (65-73) and to Croatia (88-92 in double overtime).

But as the “WC” silver-medal winner in Saitama in 2006, Greece drew a wild card together with two-time champion Brazil, 2010 runner-up Turkey and first-timer Finland.

Now, coach Fotis Katsikaris and his team, led by the Memphis Grizzlies’ 6-6 guard Nick Calathes and the Milwaukee Bucks’ 6-11 forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, are raring to prove that they don’t just belong but they’re medal contenders.

Gilas Pilipinas has to contain Calathes and Antetokounmpo and must also neutralize the inside strength of giants Giannis Bourousis (7-1), Andreas Glyniadakis (7-0), Ian Vougioukas (6-11).


Another key is shooting guard Nikos Zisis, the remaining holdover from the Greek team that stunned Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and their teammates, 101-95, in the Saitama Final Four.

Other veteran players Georgios Printezis and Kostas Kaimakoglou and youngsters Kostas Papanikolaou, Evangelos Mantzaris and Kostas Sloukas are also in the roster of the Greek team that is expected to easily make the knockout stage in this Spanish joust.

In 2010 in Turkey, the Greeks placed 11th after being toppled by Spain, 72-80, in the Round of 16. (SB)

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