'Greek Freak' Antetokounmpo to play in World Cup

Athens (AFP) –


"Greek Freak" Giannis Antetokounmpo said Friday he would play for Greece at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China this summer.

Voted the NBA's most valuable player (MVP) for the 2018-19 regular season, the 24-year-old Milwaukee Bucks forward said: "I want to be there to help my country achieve something good."

Speaking at an event in Athens to promote his line of sports shoes, Antetokounmpo added: "I have not spoken to the coach about which position I will play.

"Whether I play in position 1 or 5 I don't care. I want to play, I'm a basketball player."

He said he had already talked to some of his Greek teammates about the prospect of taking part in the August 31-September 15 tournament. "We are all excited and we are looking forward to the tournament," he said.

Greece will play in Group F against Brazil, New Zealand and Montenegro and must finish in the top two to advance to second round Group K to go up against the top two sides from a Group E that consists of the USA, Turkey, Japan and the Czech Republic.

The top two sides from that second round group will reach the quarter-finals.

Antetokounmpo, born in Greece to Nigerian parents, first represented Greece in July 2013 at under-21 level, the same year he signed for the Bucks.

A year later he debuted for the senior Greek national team, leading them to ninth place in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup with a 5-1 record.

Antetokounmpo again played for the Greek side in EuroBasket 2015 and the team was unbeaten in the group stages but lost to Spain in the quarter-finals.

He also played for Greece in what turned out to be an unsuccessful Olympic qualifying tournament in 2016.

In all Antetokounmpo has played in 38 games for the national team, averaging 9.8 points per match.

Antetokounmpo, in his sixth season with the Bucks just finished, averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds as he led Milwaukee to the best regular-season record in the league with 60 wins and 22 defeats. They reached the Eastern Conference finals where they fell to the Toronto Raptors, who would go on to lift the title.