EuroBasket Women 2011
|Papamichail against Ewelina Kobryn of Poland at EuroBasket Women 2009, her best ever tournament with the national team. The Greece center averaged 9.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in Latvia|
If experience is the best teacher, then all should be just fine for Greece when they embark on their EuroBasket Women campaign this weekend in Poland.
Experience will remind them that warm-up games, like the ones they lost in the Victory Cup in Turkey last weekend to Spain, Turkey and Montenegro, matter not one iota.
Experience will also tell Greece that if they focus on the game-plan that coach Kostas Missas presents each time out, they'll have a better chance than not of winning the game no matter who the opponents are.
Remembering that Greece are a squad that lost by just two points to eventual champions France at the EuroBasket Women 2009 and ultimately came in fifth to qualify for the FIBA World Championship for Women for the first time, and knowing that seven players from that side of two years ago are still in the squad, should serve as a warning to France, Latvia and Croatia - their Group D opponents in Katowice.
One player that knows very well what has to take place for Greece to be successful is their undersized center, Pelagia Papamichail.
At 1.89m in height, she gives away a lot of centimeters to the pivots of Latvia (2.00m Zane Tamane) and France (1.93m Sandrine Gruda and 1.92m Emmeline Ndongue).
She's not worried about that, or anything else.
Papamichail is focused only on the game-plan.
She spoke to Basketball World News just days before the start of the tournament.
Pelagia, how is Greece playing right now shortly before the start of the EuroBasket in Poland?
Pelagia Papamichail: "We had 10 friendly games during this preparation time and in each one of them we were trying to improve our game and hide our weaknesses. In general, I am satisfied from our performances but what we need to do is to be more stable during the game and decrease the minutes that we don't play well. But that's what friendly games are for, to work on all the things that can make us be at the top of our performance during this EuroBasket."
Has Greece been playing like they want to play? Is it unimportant to look at all the friendly results during the warm-up period
PP: "I will never say that we play like we want to because there is always ambition to improve and get better, but I believe that each one of us knows now what each has to do on the court, which for us is the only way to get the results that we want. As for the friendly games, of course results are important but it's not the only thing that matters right now.
"For sure if you win all the time, you have a better psychology, but in my opinion we are a team that learns more from its defeats as these are the ones that make us actually think about the consequences of our mistakes. So at this time, we have been focusing on improving our game and seeing what more we have to do in order to get the results that really matter in a few days at the EuroBasket in Poland."
What gives you hope that by the start of the tournament, Greece will be able to find success?
PP: It's not about hoping for me. Hope is something that you believe in if there is nothing left to do. We know each other well, we know how to play together and how to pull each other to give more and more in every game. The main body of this team has been together the last five years and the new girls added to this team were quickly absorbed into it, so the spirit of this team is to fight and even though we have main physical disadvantages in comparison to other teams, we remain a tough and packed team! But of course we have to show this on the court and then, success will come on its own.
Turn the clock back one year and consider the FIBA World Championship for Women that Greece played in. You came up short of the Quarter-Finals. How does your national team benefit from playing in the Czech Republic?
PP: "We didn't reach the Quarter-Finals last year as we lost to Belarus in a very close game and as they were better in some details in the end. The fact that we came so close is of course something that makes us mad for the lost chance but also makes us try harder to get better and not repeat the same mistakes! We shouldn't forget that this was Greece's first participation in a World Championship so just by being there was an experience of its own.
"And even though we didn't make it to the Quarter-Finals, we were able to gain all the experience that these kind of events are able to offer. The bitter taste of a loss can only make us work harder. And as I said before, we learn more from our mistakes so there is no doubt that this team was able to benefit from this experience."
How difficult is this First Round group you are in?
PP: "There are no easy groups in this EuroBasket. We are talking about 16 teams, the elite of Europe and the Olympic games are on the horizon so this is an additional motivation for teams to be as strong as possible. I believe that France is stronger than last year as their frontline is full without injuries and also this team has experience, has leaders, a very strong tactical game and of course they are the last European champions. Our fate is to meet them every summer so we know them well, as they know us, too, but this doesn't stop them from being the toughest opponents in our group.
"The other two teams Latvia and Croatia are also teams that will never allow us to feel safe. Latvia, even though it has some absentees (Anete Jekabsone-Zogota) remains a very good team and we shouldn't forget that the (Latvia) coach (George Dikeoulakos) was once our assistant. So it's an additional reason to make this game more difficult as he knows our weak points and our game from the inside. Croatia is also a team that has great shooters and tall girls inside so we will have to be really focused in order to not let these two teams develop their game."