Hoopsters high on hope

The national basketball team departed yesterday for Beijing ahead of the start of the Olympic tournament on August 10. Coach Panayiotis Yiannakis and his players expressed optimism about their chances in the competition. «We want to make people remember us,» said Yiannakis, with skipper Thodoris Papaloukas adding that «we are just at the beginning of the journey,» referring to the upcoming series of games that players hope will lead them to the podium. «It feels great to take part in this event. This requires patience and concentration from everyone. We want to show our good side so that people will remember us,» said Yiannakis. Papaloukas said the players have completed their preparation and were all in good spirits and health. «We will try to go as far as we can,» he said, as forward Antonis Fotsis added that «we will do our best and this may well be a medal.» The euphoria among the players and the coach was boosted by Sunday’s triumph of the under-18 national team which won the European Championship unbeaten. «They filled us with joy, but from now on they must work even harder to become successful as men,» said Yiannakis. Greece has now won all titles at a European level, after having taken the men’s event as well as that of the under-20 age group. Behind Greece and Lithuania, the other top-five spots went to Croatia, France and Spain. These five teams have automatically qualified to the World Under-19 Championship to be held in New Zealand next year (July 2-17). In contrast, the national under-20 team failed to progress past the first group stage of its European Championship. Greece beat the Ukraine but lost to Lithuania and Croatia to finish bottom of its group in Latvia. The team of coach Giorgos Sigalas will now have to fight for survival in the top division of the European Championship, playing for the 13-16 spots of the table. Today it starts by facing Slovenia, with Georgia and Bulgaria to follow.