Kostas Papanikolaou swerves from maternity unit to World Cup: “It was not easy”

2023-08-24T14:40:11+00:00 2023-08-24T20:24:35+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

24/Aug/23 14:40


A few days before the tipoff of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Kostas Papanikolaou and his wife welcome their second child

By Aris Barkas/ barkas@Eurohoops.net

MANILA, Philippines – The path for Kostas Papanikolaou to the 2023 FIBA World Cup including a pretty emotional experience made it unique for the captain of the Greek senior national team.

Two weeks before landing in the Philippines, his wife gave birth to their second child in Athens. Papanikolaou actually traveled separately to Abu Dhabi for the last part of the training camp to enjoy his growing family, before reuniting with his teammates and heading to Pasay, the hosting city of Group C with Greece taking on Jordan, the USA, and New Zealand from Saturday through Wednesday.

“I am very lucky to be in the era of live videos, so I can enjoy communication and interaction daily,” he replied referring to the connection with his second daughter via phone.

Papanikolaou, 33, is nearing two decades since debuting at the junior level with Greece in 2007. Moving up to the senior level in 2011, previous showings in major tournaments stretch to the 2014 and 2019 editions of the World Cup, besides multiple EuroBasket appearances.

“I have said it many times, it is really an honor to play for the national team. I am not saying it to just say it,” he stressed furthering on being able to quickly turn focus from the birth to basketball.

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“When you have support from your partner, you can act on your mindset. It was not easy to leave your wife in the maternity unit and board the plane,” he explained, “Dealing with my situation, the team also helped me, making me feel comfortable.”

His former teammate Vassilis Spanoulis was sporadically linked to winning the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague championship after welcoming a son to his family. “I will not go there, nor did I with my first daughter, but if fate wants to make an exception this time I will accept it with much joy and love,” mentioned Papanikolaou.

“We want to be proud of our effort”

Missing players the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nick Calathes, Kostas Sloukas, and more starpower, the projections for the team coached by Dimitris Itoudis are unkind, way lower than previous international tournaments.

“As a professional athlete, I can’t enter a tournament and set a goal of ranking fifth overall. I can’t accept it,” reacted Papanikolaou, “The goal is to look forward, open the door, or at least peek into what else is there. It is impossible to decide in advance. At the end of the day, we must make an effort for both ourselves and the fans to be proud of.”

“It is very important for us and Greek basketball to have a solid tournament. Many young players are on the squad, debuting in such a tournament. That does not really count, they still must give it their all in every game,” he added, “We constantly want to progress as deep as possible in the tournaments. We want the fans watching from home and those following us here to be proud. We must represent our country with honor.”

Similar to the rest of the groups shaping the preliminary round of the World Cup, the top two seeds of Group C will progress to the second round. The bottom two will instead move into a new group to rank between 17th and 32nd.

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