Team Focus: Panionios On Telecoms

Sep 15, 2008 by Euroleague.net Print
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ALEKSANDAR TRIFUNOVIC,
Head Coach


Coach, tell us about your team's roster for the next Euroleague season, what changes you made and what improvements you expect to gain from those decisions?
"I think that Panionios for the first time in the recent years kept 5 or 6 guys from the previous season. Those guys are the ones who earned the Euroleague ticket and now they are willing to give a bigger effort for the season in front of us. We are following what our tight budget dictates to us, and we could not add new players like other Euroleague teams did this summer. Those changes are something we needed anyway. We are still in the process of building a team, maybe with one more change in the roster. Now we are doing as good as we hoped at this moment, and the games in front of us are gonna show us. Now our big goal is to play the Euroleague as we finished third in Greece after the, let's say, untouchable Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, and we will be challenged to play against all the good teams and see what we can do."
How much can you learn from the preseason about your team? What signs do you look for now that will help when the Euroleague starts?
"We can get a lot from the preseason, generally. The problematic thing for us is that we don't have such a huge roster, with 13 or 14 names. I know that a lot of teams can say that, but the national obligations are hurting us and our rhythm of practice. I am not the kind of guy who will cry for that, but we will try to find a solution so we can practice as well as we can and give space to those guys when they come back."
Now that all the other teams have mostly completed their rosters, how does the competition in the Euroleague this season look like to you?
"I think it will be a really impressive competition this year. I think that at least there will be 14 teams with Final Four aspirations. That fact says it all."
What are your goals going into the new Euroleague season?
"It's gonna be great if we make it to the Top 16. But for now it's what I am saying: our goal is to play, to see how much we can play and compete. I have experience from Lietuvos Rytas last season and I am trying to guide myself through that experience. From the hard work and a good atmosphere we might arrive where nobody expects us."
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After a decade away, Panionios On Telecoms returns to Europe's center stage in 2008-09 with a core of tough and talented players who will make people take notice of the competition's third team in Athens. Panionios earned a Euroleague berth by claiming third place in the Greek League last season behind only mighty Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, but then quickly shifted its thinking to build a Euroleague-worthy squad. One of the game's best young coaches, Aleksandar Trifunovic, was handed the reins and given a promising group of players to work with. Many of the stars of last year's team - veteran guards Ioannis Kalampokis and Ivan Zoroski and big men Lonny Baxter, Giannis Giannoulis and Levon Kendall - are back and joined by new playmaker Aaron Miles, scoring threat Branko Cvetkovic and dependable big man Goran Nikolic. Together they plan to keep Panionios in the headlines for the long run both in the Euroleague and back home in Greece.

Name
Pos.
Height
Levon Kendall
C
2.08
Vladimir Jankovic
F
2.08
Giannis Giannoulis
C
2.04
Giannis Georgallis
F
2.00
Vassilis Xanthopoulos
G
1.86
Dimitrios Katiakos
F
1.97
Lonny Baxter
C
2.03
Ioannis Kalampokis
G
1.95
Ivan Zoroski
G
1.95
Branko Cvetkovic
F
2.00
Miroslav Raicevic
F
2.08
Goran Nikolic
F
2.05
Aaron Miles
G
1.85
Head Coach: Aleksandar Trifunovic
Miles is a natural floor leader who will set the tone for the Panionios attack. He'll always look to get his teammates involved, but will punish opponents that leave him open to shoot. The production won't drop off much when Miles takes a breather and Vassilis Xanthopoulos steps in. Xanthopoulos is another pass-first playmaker and an aggressive defender who was on Panathinaikos's roster when it won the Euroleague two seasons ago. Combo guard Zoroski and experienced swingman Kalampokis complement each other well and help to make the rest of the backcourt click. Cvetkovic may become the club's keyoffensive weapon. He possesses all the traits of great scorer, which shows in his shooting range, ability to create for himself and his supreme confidence.

Panionios boasts plenty of size, experience and depth in the paint. Baxter, who owns a wide variety of post moves plus some intimidating brute strength, could be the team's first scoring option. The savvy Nikolic has the skills to play behind or alongside Baxter. A smart player with a good mid-range jumper, Nikolic is great at finding his spots to do damage. Miroslav Raicevic is a classic power forward with the emphasis on power. His combination of size and speed help Raicevic make an impact whenever he's on the floor. Kendall made great progress in his first season in Europe last year and Panionios expects his to continue to develop into a fine frontcourt force. Giannoulis is one of the team's most experienced players. His ability to help guide the younger players is almost as important as his scoring, rebounding and defense. Vladimir Jankovic is just a teenager, but already seen as one of the best prospects in Greek basketball and could start to see limited minutes this season.

Coach Trifunovic has been extremely successful so far with his brand of team-first basketball, which led Lietuvos Rytas to the ULEB Cup final two seasons ago and into the Euroleague Top 16 last season. Now, he has just the squad to repeat those past results. Panionios boasts plenty of depth, with an even balance of frontcourt and perimeter players, plus a good mix of young players looking to break through and experienced vets willing to help them along. After so many seasons away from the European elite, few might expect big things from Panionios this season, but the players wearing red and blue will be out to prove them wrong.