New blood on basketball team

The national basketball team will start taking shape today ahead of the European Championship this September in Poland and will have a considerably different lineup to what we have gotten used to. In addition to taking on a new coach, Lithuanian Jonas Kazlauskas, Greece will be deprived of some of the top players of the last few years who helped it reach the top spot in Europe in 2005 and second place in the world in 2006, having beaten the USA in the process. Last week, Greek captain Theodoros Papaloukas added his name to the list of those who will sit out the 2009 Eurobasket games: Dimitris Diamantidis, Panayiotis Vassilopoulos and Costas Tsartsaris. «Unfortunately, my attempt to play in the last game of the league’s final series for Olympiakos with the injury that I already had has aggravated my condition and my ankle has yet to recover 100 percent. Besides, there is the accumulated tiredness of many years. Since 2000, I have always been present at the national team call-ups after ending my arduous season with my clubs. After all, I am 32 years old and must view things in their true dimension,» stated Papaloukas. Diamantidis and Vassilopoulos had to be left out due to injuries, while Costas Tsartsaris has opted out in order to recover from consecutive competitions over the least few years. As a result, the Hellenic Basketball Federation announced on Saturday that it has called up another two players for the men’s national team. Manolis Papamakarios and Yiannis Georgalis will join the rest of Kazlauskas’s squad, which will meet its new coach today. Reports have suggested that Under-20 international Costas Papanikolaou will also join the men’s squad at a later stage. Under-20s march on The Greek Under-20 team finished second in their group at the first round of the European Championship on Rhodes after losing to France on Saturday. Greece had beaten Belgium 80-58 on Thursday and Italy 79-66 on Friday, before going down to France 81-71. Coach Costas Missas’s boys will therefore enter the second group stage tonight with a record of one win and one loss, since the results with the other qualifying teams (France and Italy) also count for the second round. The first match for Greece in the second group stage is against Russia at 9.15 p.m. tonight. The Greeks will then face Spain tomorrow and Latvia on Wednesday.