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An Insider’s Look at Kostas Antetokounmpo

Spencer Davies looks at the prospects of Kostas Antetokounmpo at the next level through the eyes of a staffer who once worked with him.

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The last name “Antetokounmpo” is an attention grabber.

When you hear it, you immediately think of the most impressive athletic specimen in all of basketball, and maybe even sports, period. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ All-Star forward and literal “Greek Freak,” has opened the world’s eyes since coming into the NBA and making his presence felt.

However, he’s not the only one in the family that has the chops to play the game.

His oldest brother, Thanasis, is currently overseas after spending a brief time in the New York Knicks organization a couple of seasons ago.

His youngest brother, Alexis, is making a big name for himself at Dominican High School in Milwaukee and is rapidly growing with each year—in size and in skill.

And then there’s the fourth brother in the family, Kostas, who is out to prove that he has a whole lot to offer at the professional level despite those doubting him.

“I feel that a lot of people think that I’m less talented than I am,” Antetokounmpo said at the NBA Combine in Chicago. “I feel like I’m more talented. I haven’t really gotten the chance to really show it yet, but I feel like when the chance comes, everybody’s gonna be surprised.”

Aiming For The Pros

In two years at The University of Dayton, Antetokounmpo did not see all that much playing time, at least consistently. He played just one season in college, with only seven games where he was on the floor for over 20 minutes.

Then-Flyers head coach Archie Miller recruited Antetokounmpo and redshirted him as soon as he arrived due to being ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA.

According to a former Dayton staffer when he was a freshman, Antetokounmpo had his sights solely set on reaching the professional ranks from the jump.

“Obviously had his eyes on getting to the next level as quick as possible,” the staffer, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Basketball Insiders of redshirting Antetokounmpo.

“I know he was not thinking long-term college. I think he was thinking two and done. That was kinda our plan with him with the redshirt year, so you’re looking at three years. And that was kinda like the timetable we gave him. If things went super well for him and he had a chance to make it, we were certainly gonna push him out the door.”

There were plenty of things that stood out to the staff at Dayton when Antetokounmpo first joined the team. They weren’t things you’d typically expect skill-wise, but it was rather more about his measurables and wingspan that truly wowed them.

“Just his length,” the staffer said. “Like he’s just able to cover so much ground so quickly. Whether that’s coming over help side in the lane, to block a shot on the weak side or it’s a shot fake, one-dribble from the NBA three-point line to the basket and he dunks on you. I think just his overall length was kinda like, ‘Woah, he can cover a lot of ground.’ He can be disruptive on defense. That type of stuff.

“It wasn’t necessarily like, ‘This guy could shoot the ball, he can dribble.’ It was like, ‘This dude’s super raw, his potential is sky-high and he is super long.’”

A Change Of Pace

While he was redshirting, Antetokounmpo put a ton of time into getting better as a shooter, something he still needs to prove he can consistently do. On top of that, his stability was not the best. Posting on the block or coming off ball screens, when others players would make contact with Antetokounmpo, he’d be thrown off balance.

The objective in mind for the Flyers program was to help bring Antetokounmpo along over time, but it didn’t happen exactly as he thought it would. Fresh off yet another successful season and a regular season conference championship, Miller took an opportunity to coach at Indiana University.

Former Virginia Commonwealth and Alabama University head coach Anthony Grant was hired as Miller’s replacement. It not only changed the direction at Dayton, but it also altered the development and comfortability of Antetokounmpo.

“It’s very difficult,” the staffer said of playing for different coaches. “It was a tough situation for him because we had a detailed plan of how we were gonna get him better and all that type of stuff and then coach took a different job.

“There’s a lot of trust that goes into coming to a program and knowing the coaching staff. When somebody leaves and somebody new comes in. You have a lot of questions. You have a lot of uncertainties. So there’s a lot of different variables that can go into it.”

Admittedly, the staffer thought that Antetokounmpo would have seen the floor more last year if Miller was still at the helm.

“I’m sure we would’ve tried to utilize him more than they did,” the staffer said. “Nonetheless, it is what it is. What happened, happened. I know last year was kinda a struggle with him with coach Grant and how they used him. I’m not exactly sure what happened there. Two different stories from both sides.”

Family Values And Persistence

Regardless of whatever difficulties come his way, Antetokounmpo’s work ethic is top-notch. From staying in the gym late at night with a manager to constantly working on his body and sticking to a strict diet plan, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals and improve.

It’s a quality that reflects a real influence from Giannis, who has constantly mentored his brothers with advice since their childhood – so him being there to support Kostas at the combine meant a lot to his little brother.

“It was really important,” Antetokounmpo said of Giannis attending. ‘Him just being there and just seeing him—I haven’t seen him in a while, so it just made me feel real good.

“He just told me play as hard as you can. You’re not gonna make every shot, but just play as hard as you can. You can get knocked down, but get up and play as hard as you can.”

As mentioned before, the family name is recognizable across the world by now due to the superstardom of Giannis. Of course, with that will come comparisons between the two, and probably Alexis, down the road.

But Kostas knew right away the talk would surface and that he’d be a bullseye for competition.

“I feel like you can’t get caught up in that stuff, you feel me?” Antetokounmpo said. “Like, any player that’s coming up now—like every player—they’re gonna compare you to somebody. At the end of the day, you just gotta be yourself, just play your game and just show the people what you can do.

“Most of the times I got a target on my back, but you can’t do nothing. Any way you go, it’s gonna be the same thing. I tell my younger brother [Alexis] the same thing. In high school everybody’s coming for you. They’ll maybe try to foul you, talk to you, talk trash and stuff, but just keep playing. Just zone out and keep playing.”

Brothers, But Different Players

While Kostas and Giannis share the same last name, they do not share the same game. Their repertoire and style of play do not match on another. In fact, putting the two in the same breath is unheard of for where the 20-year-old is at compared to a near-MVP in his older brother.

“Anybody who thinks he’s the next Greek Freak 2.0 is mistaken because he’s not,” the staffer said. “It’s unfair to him because he has the pressure on his shoulders, but he’s just not at the stage to even be in the same conversation as his brother.

“I don’t think it’s fair to ever compare the two. They’re just two completely different people and different players.”

It’s pretty easy to support this argument. Giannis had much more of an audience that was captivated by his time overseas. Between experiences with professional ball club Filathlitikos and experience in the under-20 championships in FIBA for his native country of Greece, he was a projected first-round pick.

While Kostas also briefly played for the same professional team in Greece under the junior program, he didn’t have the opportunity to garner the same experience as his older brother did. So instead, when the family moved to Milwaukee, he played high school ball and was recruited by Miller.

With that said, it is fair to liken their respective physical frames to one another. As an 18-year-old going into the 2013 NBA Draft, Giannis was 6-foot-9 and 196 pounds. Two years older than what his brother was entering the field, Kostas measured in at 6-foot-10-and-a-half inches in height and weighed in at about 195 pounds.

“His body is a little underdeveloped still,” the staffer said. “He’s probably still growing into it. You talk to professionals and big time strength program coaches, they kinda look at his body as a blank canvas that can go a lot of different ways just given his genetics and seeing how his brother’s really filled out.

“But I think the more that, [once] he’s able to grow and get stronger and put on a little more weight, I just think his game will continue to develop and overall mature his game.”

Draft Prospects?

If you look at most mock drafts that are out there, not many of them have Antetokounmpo on the list. There may be some you come across that predict he gets taken at the tail end of the second round, but many people seem to believe he’ll go undrafted.

The staffer told Basketball Insiders that if a team does take a chance on Antetokounmpo with a pick, it will be “a little bit of a risk” due to the minuscule sample size there is with his game. Though, he can see a scenario where he’s selected in the fifties or signs a two-way contract that allows him to develop in the G-League.

“It’s easier to make a decision on somebody when you have 30 games to watch, how they compete and play against other pros whereas Kostas was playing 12-15 minutes in the Atlantic-10 not playing against too many other pros,” he said.

By the same token, there’s a probability that the organization that brings Antetokounmpo in will be happy with his self-starting attitude. Between how he approaches his day-to-day routine and how close he is with his family, who he is as a person is what truly separates him.

“I just think he has a lot of internal motivators that will drive him,” the staffer said. “I’m really curious to see what happens. I’m really excited to see how things will pan out for him.”

Antetokounmpo believes that his strongest suit he can bring to the floor is his athleticism, being a floor runner and establishing a reputation as a shot blocker.

The staffer agreed with his notion that he’s better than what he did in one season at Dayton.

“I think some people—whoever will take him—people may question like you’re taking a guy who’s not really proven or didn’t too much in college, but I think his potential is the most intriguing part,” the staffer said. “You can see the confidence he has in himself. I think it’s gonna take the right system and the right coach and the right people around him to get out the best in him.”

He might not have gotten the opportunity to prove himself much on the college stage, but it certainly sounds like Antetokounmpo will be able to rectify that at the professional level.

And if he ever gets to share the same floor as his siblings, his fantasy will have become a reality.

“Playing against all my brothers,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s our dream, just playing against each other or even playing on the same team.”

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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