Greek basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo says he wants to be the best point guard in the NBA and will stop at nothing to achieve his goal.
Speaking directly to Neos Kosmos in New York following a roller coaster few months for the young basketballer, Antetokounmpo said he wants to be the go-to guy on his team and emulate retiring star Kobe Bryant.
“I want to be the best point guard in the League,” he stated. “I want to be the go-to guy. You give me the ball, I’ll drop 60 like Kobe. That’s what I’m expecting from myself.”
Fresh off an instrumental role with the Greek national team at EuroBasket 2015, Antetokounmpo has continued to shine in his third season with the Milwaukee Bucks. Even though the Bucks – who many had felt were ready to take the next step and become a serious contender in the Eastern Conference – are struggling this season, Antetokounmpo remains one of their shining lights.
It was a bittersweet EuroBasket campaign for the young Greek forward. Even though he averaged 9.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and showed glimpses of what his talent can do on-court, he was just Greece’s sixth leading scorer – something that rarely happens while playing for Milwaukee.
Antetokounmpo says he used the experience as a learning curve.
“When I go to the national team I know I’m going to have a different role because it’s 12 of the best players in Greece, so I cannot have the same role I have with the team [Bucks] that I have in the national team,” said Antetokounmpo.
“You just have to accept your role. I felt I could help the team more, but you just gotta accept it because it’s not your team, you play for a whole country.”
Entering the quarter-final stage of the tournament, Greece was considered by many as the favourite to advance from the clash with Spain, but the Spanish team proved too experienced and too good. Antetokounmpo said he doesn’t look back on the game as a lost opportunity for Greece to have advanced deeper into the tournament.
“At the end of the day, it’s basketball,” he said. “Sometimes you win or sometimes you lose. I feel like that game we were the favourite, I thought we were gonna win, but it was a tough game and Spain was a really good team. I was kind of disappointed that night, definitely I wanted to win that game, but I felt a lot better when I saw Spain won the Euro Championships, so I felt like we [at least] lost to the best. It was a little bit better.”
Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty said playing at EuroBasket has helped prepare Antetokounmpo for the gruelling NBA campaign. So far in 2015-16, Antetokounmpo is averaging 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists (all career highs).
“We’re wanting him to grow at all levels,” said Prunty. “I think the international experience is always good; anytime you can go out and compete at a high-level against good-quality players, that’s a good thing. I think he’s having a very good year. We’re coaches so we always want more, but I think he’s having a good season.”
Even though the team is languishing in 13th place in the Eastern Conference with a less-than-stellar record, Antetokounmpo is still confident it has the pieces in place to become a serious threat in the future.
“Definitely for sure I was expecting more than last year,” he admitted. “We had a lot of expectations for the team, but we just gotta figure things out. We just gotta go through the process. We’re a young team, Jabari [Parker] is back now, Kris [Middleton], me, Rashad [Vaughn], a lot of guys on the team are young.
“We just gotta go through the process step-by-step and it might take two years, might take three … it might never come, but we gotta go through the process and grow as a team, grow as players, and good things are gonna come.”
But what of those heady expectations the versatile Antetokounmpo, who is 6’11 and can wreak havoc when playing any of the five positions, has set for himself?
“I think I’m on the right track,” he said. “The team is helping me to be on the right track and I’ve got the mentality and personality to do a lot better.”