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Lakerholicz: Kostas Antetokounmpo

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Kostas Antetokounmpo was born in November 1997, making him 22 and so a player with a future to carve out. He was born in Greece to Nigerian parents and was given Greek citizenship in 2016. He moved to America, following his older brother who was drafted into the NBA, to go to high school and begin the path to stardom in basketball.

Kostas was built for basketball, standing at 6ft 10 inches or over 2 metres and a solid 200lbs. Considering his age, Kostas is surprisingly powerful.

The Early Years

Born in Athens, Kostas started playing basketball as a youth for the local junior team of Filathlitikos. His older brother was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2013 NBA draft. The decision was made to move the whole family to Milwaukee and Kostas attended the Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. He played basketball all through his junior and senior years and was part of a state championship team. 

His parents were sportspeople through and through. Charles, his late father, was a Nigerian soccer player. His mother, Veronica, was a high jumper. His parents came from different Nigerian ethnic groups, which made their relationship a minor miracle. His oldest brother is a professional soccer player, his brothers are also in the NBA – this is a family with a host of talent!

College

It seemed definite, after such a successful time in high school, that Kostas would play college basketball. He did just that, attending the University of Dayton. In his first season, he was redshirted, a less than auspicious beginning to his basketball career. With a year to develop his physique and skills, Kostas didn’t take his label as a partial qualifier sitting down. The assumption was that he had fallen behind in his athletic development due to the first two years of high school spent in Greece. However, in the 2017-18 season, he made his debut and averaged 5.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. He played for an average of 15.1 minutes. A solid season and clearly a valued team player.

Professional Career

Kostas entered the draft in 2018. He was a Round 2 pick, 60th overall. He was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers. His draft rights were then traded to the Dalla Mavericks. He was part of the record-high 69 players drafted in 2018. He made it in the second round because it was thought that he made little progress in his freshman college season. 

Kostas signed a two-way contract on July 13th. The terms of the contract required him to split his playing time. He would play for part of the season for the Mavericks in the NBA G League and the Texas Legends. His NBA debut came in March 2019 in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. On July 2019, he was waived by the Mavericks. 

This is when Kostas came to the attention of the Los Angeles Lakers, where he was claimed off waivers by the LA Lakers.

His journey to one of the top teams in the NBA has been torrid. However, the obvious potential in this power forward keeps his career progressing and he has a chance to make a difference with the Lakers in this torrid season.

Kostas has also played for the Greek under-20 national team.

What are people saying about Kostas Antetokounmpo?

You may have heard of this recruit to the NBA but you haven’t seen him play yet. He has only had the occasional chance to impress. You may have seen more of him play for the Dayton Flyers or the South Bay Lakers, but nothing at the top level. He may be Gianni’s second youngest brother but will he succeed with the LA Lakers.

Playing for the South Bay Lakers, he is the third-leading scorer among the active players – he has impressed accruing an average close to 14 points. This is pretty good considering the league is swamped with players with the talent to impress.

Kostas has the ability to influence the scorecard but you sense his strength, agility and instincts make him a better fit at the other end of the court.  If he is to succeed in a defensive position, he is going to want to have to. His current defensive awareness can appear lacklustre – even though this is most certainly the most significant way to realise his potential.

The big elephant in the room is that Kostas might not have the chance to increase this court awareness with the Lakers. The offensive roster at the Lakers is stacked and the coach tends to lean to trusted talent, rather than offer starts for youngsters with potential. It is likely if he has any chance he needs to enter a program where he is given regular minutes. How can he hope to find the space he needs when he competing against the likes of Davis, Howard or McGee?

However, the truth is we won’t know his true potential until he plays more at the highest level. So far he has 12 NBA minutes with the Lakers and Mavericks combined. He becomes a free agent in 2021 – we suspect he won’t be staying long in Los Angeles.

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