Joe Arlauckas hears of Canadian star's path to the pros
On the latest episode of The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas, Zenit St Petersburg guard Kevin Pangos, a 2017-18 All-EuroLeague selection, joins the show to discuss the many things the two have in common – and some things they don't. The Canadian-born guard walked Joe through his highlights in college before experiencing the high and lows of the professional game in the 7DAYS EuroCup and the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
Though Pangos dabbled in ice hockey as a boy, basketball was in his blood. His father was the women's basketball coach at a university in Toronto. Like so many young Canadian hoopsters, Pangos grew up idolizing Steve Nash and at one point would shoot hundreds of jumpers a day to emulate the two-time NBA MVP.
All that shooting would pay off. Pangos decided to travel to the United States to play college basketball for Gonzaga University, where he introduced himself to the American basketball world with 33 points in his second game.
[22:50] "It was life-changing," Pangos said, as he retold a story of how some classmates doubted that he really was a player on the team when they first met him. "After that 33-point game, that never happened to me again... All of a sudden, in Gonzaga basketball culture, people recognized me."
After four wonderful years in college, where Pangos met his future wife, he began his professional career with Herbalife Gran Canaria. It was a fantastic first season as the team reached the 7DAYS EuroCup Semifinals and Pangos was named to the All-EuroCup Second Team. That led to an offer to play in the EuroLeague for Zalgiris Kaunas under the team's then-head coach, Sarunas Jasikevicius.
In their second season together, Zalgiris and Pangos made history by reaching the EuroLeague Final Four in Belgrade. To do so, they eliminated Olympiacos Piraeus in the playoffs. After they split the first two games in Greece, Pangos said that his team was virtually unbeatable at home.
[49:00] "When we came back to Lithuania, the way that we walked into the gym and everyone was wearing green, packed house. I don't think we had a chance to lose those games, just the way the energy was built up," Pangos recalled. "I remember everyone was just ecstatic."
Pangos's next move was to Barcelona, where he signed a two-year contract. However, he was sidelined for almost all of his second season with a toe turf injury and that was a tough time for the floor general.
[1:05:30] "I don't want to be labeled soft. In my family, it's always been, 'Work hard, work hard.' Everything like that. So when people are questioning my toughness and my will to play, it kills you. And you can't do anything to really defend yourself other than say, 'No, that's not true,' because I can't go out there and play. So that was one of the toughest parts, mentally."
Once healed, Pangos moved again over the summer to Zenit, where he is once again playing like one of the best point guards on the continent and has the team in the thick of one of the tightest playoff races in competition history. And he is loving it.
[1:08:20] "It's incredible, isn't it?" Pangos remarked. "I think this is what athletes and competitive people want. I think this is what fans want. This is what everyone wants, competitive basketball. When you look at it, it's thrilling."
With a one-hour format of exclusive one-on-one interviews, The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas goes well beyond the playing court with each podcast to delve into the life experiences that have made his guests protagonists and legends of the EuroLeague. The Crossover debuted in 2018 and has featured such current stars as Toko Shengelia, Shane Larkin and Kyle Hines, coaching greats such as Ettore Messina, Pablo Laso and Zeljko Obradovic, and legends like Theo Papaloukas, Nikola Vujcic and Mike Batiste, among others. The first guests in Season 3 were FC Bayern Munich Coach Andrea Trinchieri, Zalgiris Kaunas star Marius Grigonis, Kostas Papanikolaou of Olympiacos Piraeus and CSKA Moscow assistant coach Darryl Middleton. Pangos is the seventh guest for the 2020-21 season.
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