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Giannis Antetokounmpo ready to work after busy summer

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Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
August 3, 2013

ST. FRANCIS—A whirlwind summer has taken 18-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo around the globe.

The Milwaukee Bucks' first-round pick in the June draft, the 6-foot-9 small forward has traveled to New York and Milwaukee, home to Greece, to Slovenia, Estonia and now back to Milwaukee.

Suddenly he's a millionaire after signing his first NBA contract Tuesday. But he's also an untested rookie.

The good news for the Bucks is the smiling Antetokounmpo, already being called “GA” by some, is willing to learn.

He worked out Thursday on the Cousins Center court with player development coach Josh Oppenheimer and Cody Ross of the basketball operations staff.

Asked if he was satisfied with his showing for Greece in the Under-20 European Championship earlier this summer, Antetokounmpo did not hesitate to answer.

“No,” he said. “I was not satisfied with my performance. What can I do? I'm going to try next year.

“If the team had taken a medal, maybe I would have been OK. But we didn't take a medal. I didn't play (great).”

Greece went 8-2 in the competition and finished fifth while Antetokounmpo averaged 8.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

He was not always relied upon to score, so he tried to contribute in other ways and wound up ranking second among tournament players in defensive rebounds (7.0) and seventh in blocked shots (1.4).

“I had never played against the best guys in Europe before to see what I've got, and it was a very good experience,” Antetokounmpo said.

“We had 10 games in 13 days. We had some guys on our team who were very good shooters and scorers. If I can't do that, I have to do something else. Defense, blocking (shots) and rebounding.”

Antetokounmpo will go to New York for the league's rookie orientation program and will head back to Greece. When he returns to Milwaukee in late August, he will be accompanied by his parents, Charles and Vero, and younger brothers, Kostas, 15, and Alexandros, 11.

“They're looking forward to coming to the U.S.,” he said. “They haven't left Greece before.”

Last season Giannis played with his older brother Thanasis for Filathlitikos, a professional team in Greece. But the 20-year-old Thanasis is currently training at the IMG Academy in Florida and considering his options for next season.

While Antetokounmpo was playing in the Under-20 tournament in Estonia, Bucks coach Larry Drew traveled there to watch him.

“It's good to know your coach cares about you and wants to know things about you,” Antetokounmpo said.

And the youngster already has received a few tips from Bucks center Larry Sanders and gone to dinner with new Bucks guard Gary Neal, fresh off an NBA Finals appearance with San Antonio.

“He has a lot of potential and a lot of things you can't teach as far as length and size,” Sanders said. “His ability to be a sponge and absorb everything he can is really what is going to take him over the edge.

“He has all the attributes to be a great player.”

Asked about his immediate goals, Antetokounmpo quickly rattled off two points.

“Every day train hard,” he said. “And when the season comes the coach will allow me to play.”



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