Greece may have won all three games it played on Cyprus in the tournament that took place on August 5-7, but the team showed significant weaknesses that coach Ilias Zouros urgently needs to attend to.
With the 2011 European Basketball Championship starting in Lithuania just a few of weeks from now, on August 31, there is not much time left for the Greek coach to cover the gaps in leadership, experience and rebounds that were evident in the games against Italy, Israel and Russia, despite the wins.
Greece defeated Italy 76-70 on August 5 in a tight match, grabbed an unlikely 67-66 win over Israel the following day, thanks to a lucky shot by Costas Kaimakoglou at the end, and covered a 16-point deficit late in the first half to defeat Russia 83-80 on the last day of the tournament.
True, this is still early days for the new coach on the Greek bench and for a great number of debutants in the national team, after a host of top-pick players abandoned the squad for a variety of reasons. It is also true that Zouros is a coach who thrives when dealing with low-profile players rather than big names, as was the case during his stints with Panellinios and Zalgiris Kaunas.
Yet the team is lacking a true leader, despite the presence of battle-hardened stars such as captain Antonis Fotsis, Yiannis Bourousis and Nikos Zisis. When a team loses superstars, such as Dimitris Diamantidis, Vassilis Spanoulis and Thodoris Papaloukas, besides the quality factor, it also scores low on leadership and experience.
Another major issue that has emerged is the rebound problem. The absence of Sofoklis Schortsanitis has left Bourousis on his own as a credible presence in the paint, as Kosta Koufos and Ian Vougioukas have not yet managed to live up to expectations — although this could change ahead of the start of the Championship.
With three more friendly tournaments between now and the Eurobasket, Zouros will have his work cut out for him if he is to produce a side that is to get past the crucial quarterfinal knockout stage.
Meanwhile, on August 9, world basketball’s governing body, FIBA, overturned the two-month ban that the Greek federation had imposed on Loukas Mavrokefalidis for abandoning the national team citing personal reasons. As a result the forward-center will not need to miss a single game when the new season starts for his new club, Spartak St Petersburg.