heinnews’s David Hein this week is at the U20 European Championship in Greece and took time out to talk to Greece center Georgios Bogris. They discussed reaching the quarterfinals against Croatia; the seven stars from the U19 Worlds silver medal team joining the U20 team; his new four-year contract with reigning Euroleague champions Panathinaikos and the 2012 Olympics as his next big goal.

heinnews: After two difficult games against Spain and France, this game against Latvia appeared a bit easier.

Bogris: I don’t think it was so easy. I think the other team was nervous and that is why we won so easily. But we are focused on our game and I think that’s very good for our team because have hard games coming up in the tournament. 

heinnews: The team finished third in the qualifying round group. Is the team satisfied?

Bogris: First or second or third are all the same. They are all knock out games. Every team can beat the other team. I don’t think we need to be scared of any other team. But on a bad day I think anybody can beat anybody else. But we have to remain focused and play hard. 

heinnews: When you hear Croatia – your quarter-final opponents – what do you think?

Bogris: In every European Championship, they are a strong team just like Serbia and Greece and others. They always challenge for medals. They are a good team and have good players. And the coach is very good. I know him from years ago from the U16 tournament. I think it is a good team but we are better. If we are focused then we can beat them. 

heinnews: A lot has been reported about the seven players who came to the team after winning silver at the U19 World Championship in New Zealand. What it’s like having them come into the team at this late stage of the preparations?

Bogris: It’s no problem. We know these guys can play. We know them from the U16 and U18 teams. So we know they can play. And we know each other’s games and how to play on the court. And from the beginning of the preparations everybody knew that seven players will come. So we expected them. It’s not like, Oh man, why? And all this stuff. We knew from the beginning that we would be five. In the preparations we would take five or seven guys who know from the beginning that they will be cut when the other guys come. Maybe it’s a bad thing from FIBA Europe’s side. Maybe our European Championship should begin in August so that the guys can be with the team and play good. But that’s okay. I think we can play good and beat everyone. 

heinnews: Those seven players won U18 Euro gold last summer and took U19 silver earlier in the month – what kind of spirit or attitude did they bring with them?

Bogris: A winner’s spirit. They have a winner’s spirit. They know how to win. Some times coach plays here with five guys from the U19 team because they know each other better. They are good players and they really help us a lot. And I think two or three guys from us (U20 team) will be really tight with them and will make a great team. 

heinnews: You said they help you a lot. What kind of things do they help you with?

Bogris: Scoring, defense, rebounding, everything. They are all just really, really good players. 

heinnews: What’s it like playing this U20 tournament in Greece?

Bogris: It’s really nice. I’m playing again in Greece. Every couple of years it’s in Greece. It’s really nice because the people have the atmosphere and everything. Everybody pushes for us. It’s good to play at home. The Greeks in Spain or Germany will see you and come help you. But in Greece it’s a lot better because everyone is here – your friends and families. And we play for them as well. It’s our sixth player. I like the weather here too, it’s nice. 

heinnews: This is your last year with the Greek youth system. What would it be like to close it off with a gold medal?

Bogris: I don’t want to talk about the gold medal. We have one game against Croatia. I want to play and win this game. And then go game by game. Because when you have a target which is far away, somewhere you may lose in the middle. Maybe we talk about the gold medal and Croatia win the gold medal and we go home. So I want to stay focused on this game.

heinnews: Leaving the national team and moving to the club team, Tuesday was a big day for you as you signed a four-year deal with reigning Euroleague champions Panathinaikos. What kind of feeling did you have when they came to you with an offer?

Bogris: Man, it was amazing. I can’t explain it to you. It was, oh man. It is the best team in the world I think. Because in Europe there is basketball. In the NBA it’s running and jumping. So, whoa. That’s the word – whoa. You can imagine. I will play with the best players and the best coach in the world. So, what else can you say? It’s a dream.

heinnews: Was that your childhood team growing up?

Bogris: (Laughs and kind of looks away). You know, my last team was Ilysiakos. And Ilysiakos has a big part of my heart. And I hope the same thing will be with Panathinaikos too.

heinnews: The Panathinaikos frontcourt is very crowded right now. What are your expectations going there?

Bogris: I don’t know. I will go there to work hard. Now I am a professional player. It’s all basketball for me right now. So I will go there and do my best. I will work with the best coaches and the best players in Europe. I am at a certain level now. But I can go to another level. It’s about me now. If I am good, my health, then it’s about me. So I will do my best and hope everything will be okay. 

heinnews: Last question, what are your goals for the next two, three, four years – both at the club level and the national team level?

Bogris: Now I am at Panathinaikos. I know it will be difficult. But I want to play hard and have a role in the team – some time. I don’t know when. But I will do my best to have a role in the team. And then my goals for the national team, I would love to be in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. That’s my goal. I will do my best and I hope everything will be okay.

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