SPORTS

Schortsanitis touted by some as the next NBA superstar

Greek center Sophocles Schortsanitis impressed many with his performance during the recent World Basketball championships, from opponents to coaches and journalists. On Wednesday, a prominent US journalist named him as a likely successor to Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki as the dominant foreign-born player in the NBA. Cable sports chanel ESPN asked a panel of six journalists who would be the NBA’s biggest foreign star in 2010. Four of them mentioned players already active in the NBA: two opted for Chinese center Yao Ming and two for Serbia’s Darko Milicic, a disappointment so far. A fifth said Nowitzki is irreplaceable but a sixth, Marc J. Spears of the Denver Post opted for Schortsanitis. He told ESPN: «Remember this name and don’t try to spell it: Sophocles Schortsanitis. Well, just remember his nickname: Baby Shaq. The Los Angeles Clippers drafted the 6-foot-10, 300-pound-plus center with the 34th pick in the second round of the 2003 NBA draft. At just 21 years old, Baby Shaq showed his superstar potential by playing well for his native Greece in the recent World Championship. He was a dominant force in the post for Greece, scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in a stunning semifinal victory over the United States in Japan.» «Baby Shaq also made the highlight reels worldwide by dunking over Yao Ming in Japan, too. The Clippers, who could use some inside reserve help, made the mistake of not signing Baby Shaq to their roster this season. But after another year of playing overseas and losing some weight, expect Baby Shaq to be possibly one of the best rookies during the 2007-08 season and eventually blossom into an international star.» Schortsanitis was named Baby Shaq by a former US teammate of his when he was playing with Iraklis basketball club, because his size reminded him of center Shaquille O’Neal. Actually, Schortsanitis, who now plays for Olympiakos, hates the nickname, preferring to be called «Big Sofo.» Schortsanitis, who trimmed from nearly 180 kilograms (396 pounds) to 150 (330 pounds) over the course of the past year, has signed a four-year extension to his contract with Olympiakos. The club has made it known, however, that it would not stand in the way of a possible NBA career should he choose to go there.