SPORTS

Greek basketball starts again

Ruffled but determined to bounce back after disappointing showings at two consecutive Eurobasket competitions, the national basketball team will launch its quest for a berth at the event’s next staging in 2003 with a qualifier against Belgium tonight. The match will be played in Halkida. Greece will be led into battle by its newly appointed coach, Yiannis Ioannidis, who returns to the national team after a 20-year absence. Ioannidis, one of the country’s most successful trainers at club-level competition over the past 15 years, who coached Aris to numerous Greek titles in the 1980s before switching clubs to do likewise with Olympiakos, will be hoping to repeat his recipe of success with the national team. The Greek team, which won the competition back in 1987, returned home far earlier than it had expected at the two previous Eurobasket events in France (1999) and Turkey (2001). On both occasions, the team failed to reach the competition’s second phase. To make it to the next Eurobasket, to be held in Sweden in 2003, Greece will have to play home and away matches against Belgium, Denmark, Israel, Romania and Spain in the qualifiers. Two teams will advance to the finals. We must begin as a serious side, one that is focused and consistent. We mustn’t get mixed up with assessing the reputations and capabilities of our opponents, but should take a good look at our task. We’ve got to start from scratch, Ioannidis told his squad of 12 internationals yesterday. Ten of these will be selected for today’s opening game. As part of his preparations for the match, Ioannidis and associates have watched the video tapes of two recent games played by Belgium. It emerged victorious both against the Netherlands (102-83) and Hungary (78-63) at a friendly tournament in Amsterdam despite playing without key players. One of Belgium’s stars, Jim Potter, an American expatriate who is the team’s captain, will need to be guarded by Greece’s players. He amassed 51 points in the aforementioned games. Ioannidis has made it clear to his players: We want strong defense, defensive rebounds, and quick acceleration of play during our attacks.