Koufos hasn’t let the disappointment of Greece’s failed Olympic qualification in July linger, and remains positive despite the results.
“We can’t look at it as a lost opportunity, we just have to build off of it,” Koufos told Neos Kosmos. “We can’t get down, we just have to turn the page and move on to the next chapter. That’s what the biggest thing is. I feel like, to find success, you have to learn from your mistakes and grow.”
Greece has been on the precipice of a great era in men’s basketball in recent years, but now with the development of Giannis Antetokounmpo as a bona-fide NBA star, Koufos believes with the right mix of youth and experience, a potential Golden Era of Greek basketball awaits.
“From a standpoint of [Olympic] qualification, we didn’t do as well as we should, but we had a young team,” said Koufos. “We can’t make excuses, though. It was good for some of those young players to get that exposure, to know what it’s like to play in serious games like that. For us [national team], it helps build the foundation for the future. In a couple of years we’re going to be very, very good.”
After losing in the quarter-finals to eventual champions Spain at Eurobasket 2015, the Greeks will have another opportunity for redemption at next year’s tournament to be held in Finland. The Greeks were drawn into Group A, alongside Poland, France, Finland, Iceland and Slovenia. Koufos, who made his return to the Greek national team at Eurobasket ’15, has not yet committed to national team duties for 2017.
“It’s truly a blessing to be a part of the Greek national team [but] I’m taking it day-by-day,” he said. “We’ve got good teams in our bracket, but for now I’ll just focus on the NBA which is very important.”
The NBA is where Koufos makes his living, signing a four-year, $33 million deal last season, so he can be forgiven for putting all his energy into that.
This past summer Sacramento also added Georgios Papagiannis, a 7’2″ giant with huge upside for the Kings, who drafted him knowing that he would be a long-term project. Koufos had taken Papagiannis under his wing before the young Greek was sent down to the NBA’s Development League to work on his game in late-November. Koufos believes the move will have a positive effect on Papagiannis.
“You don’t look at it as demotion, you look at it as opportunity,” said Koufos. “He works hard, he’s got good hands and he’s very talented. He’s a big body and you can’t teach height. A lot of potential … he’s still only 19 years old.
“He’s got a good work ethic and he’s a good kid, so all those intangibles will pay dividends for him.”