Georgios Papagiannis has a lot to live up to, after making history as the highest-ever selected Greek player when he was picked No. 13 overall in last week’s NBA draft.
“I’m still 18,” Papagiannis said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to be an excuse for the next year. I’m going to give the best out of me. I’m going to work hard. I’m hungry for the game. I want to say that I’m going to do the best I can to bring a championship to town.”
Papagiannis, who stands 7’2″ tall, as well as the ability to shoot well from a long distance, was originally projected to be a late first-round to early second-round selection. In a shocking first-round, in which 14 international players were taken, Papagiannis became the Cinderella story, jumping all the way into the lottery picks.
He was drafted by the Phoenix Suns, but was immediately dealt to the Sacramento Kings, where he will hopefully get to play alongside another Greek in Kosta Koufos.
“I’m going to go to Sacramento and [to] be teammates with Koufos, being with a Greek guy on the same team, it’s different. But we’ve [also] got Peja [Stojakovic – the team’s director of player personnel] who’s going to speak Greek to me, too. So it’s a great feeling.”
By his own admission, Papagiannis said he didn’t know much about the Kings leading up to the draft.
“I met them on the pro day,” he said. “I had the pro day like last week. Besides that, I know Vlade Divac. Everybody must know [him]. I’m very excited to be his player. Peja, two great players have played there. And [currently], DeMarcus Cousins, I admire his game so much, and I love that he’s going to be my teammate.”
The last time a Greek player was taken so high was in 2013, when the Milwaukee Bucks took a chance on Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“It’s a great achievement for the whole of Greece,” Papagiannis reflected post-draft. “I’m very proud of myself, I’m very proud.”
Papagiannis was on the radar of American scouts when he played high school basketball in Pennsylvania, but decided to forgo his college eligibility to play one year of professional hoops with powerhouse Panathinaikos. The Greek club still holds Papagiannis’ rights, but his contract includes an NBA buyout, which is around $500,000 – a drop in the ocean for NBA clubs.
The question now being asked is, will Sacramento look to stash him overseas to develop, or will they keep him on their roster?
It’s unclear where exactly he fits on a roster stacked with big men such as Koufos, DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein, but Papagiannis says that he’s ready to play now.
“That’s up to the team [whether he’ll be sent back to Europe]. I want to play in the NBA as soon as possible,” he said.