|19 November 2012|
|Nikolaos Zisis has plenty of experience under his belt, as he first suited up for Greece at the U16 European Championship in 1999 |
If you need someone to break down Group D, one of the most balanced in the First Round of EuroBasket 2013, look no further than Greece captain Nikos Zisis.
Zisis has been a senior international since 2003 and spent five years of his career in Italy and two in Russia, on the books of CSKA Moscow.
The Greeks will be taking on Russia, Italy, Finland, Turkey and Sweden in Koper, starting on 4 September.
There is hardly a player on these teams the experienced guard has not played against or, in some cases, alongside, either with the national team or at club level.
The only exception is Sweden, as "to be honest, in all my years, and they've been quite a few, I don't ever recall playing against Sweden," Zisis said on Sunday night after he was informed about the EuroBasket Draw results.
He does however have a first-hand opinion on everyone else.
"Russia has been very successful in recent years, they have been stable and maintained a core of players," Zisis said in an interview with the official Greek Federation website.
"We've faced them many times, we know them well. The question mark has to do with them playing without coach [David] Blatt at the helm, for the first time in years.
"This is a minus (for them) since he was a coach that knew the team well and knew the players' advantages and disadvantages.
"It doesn't however change the fact that Russia is a traditional power with ambitions."
"Turkey and Italy are two teams with big potential and NBA players at their disposal. Turkey has the players to go far, even reach the medals, but in reality it is a riddle since we don't know who will be on the final roster," Zisis said.
"They were not so good in the Qualification Round but I say again they have big potential and we have the experience of the quarter-finals in Poland (at EuroBasket 2009) were we faced them in a particularly tough game.
"We know them, they know us and we definitely have a lot of respect for their abilities."
|Zisis is full of praise for his former coach Simone Pianigiani|
"The Italian national team I know well, since I spent several years in the country," says Zisis who played three seasons for Benetton Treviso and two for Montepaschi Siena.
"They are very enthusiastic and won away at some difficult opponents during the qualifiers."
Italy was the best-rated team in last summer's EuroBasket Qualification Round, winning all eight of their encounters.
"They have not done something big for many years and believe that this year is their chance.
"Italy have an experienced coach (Simone Pianigiani, for whom Zisis played at Siena) who will for sure prepare them well psychologically for the big games.
"If [Andrea] Bargnani and [Marco] Belinelli are present it will play a big role but there is also an issue as, since they're playing in the NBA, they're used to a different style of play.
"They have players of great value in general as many players are improving through playing in Serie A like [Pietro] Aradori or [Daniel] Hackett."
"We played against Finland in Lithuania (at EuroBasket 2011)," recalls Zisis.
"They have a specific style of play, a bit like run 'n' gun since they don't have the big guys we or Turkey for example have. So they need to be fast.
"We managed to stop them in 2011, but it's a team that becomes dangerous if they impose their pace. They too have good players, like [Petteri] Koponen or [Teemu] Rannikko and are a formidable opponent."
Zisis won EuroBasket gold in 2005 in Belgrade and then collected a bronze medal at EuroBasket 2009.
This doesn't mean he wouldn't like to broaden his silverware collection in Slovenia.
"It's a long tournament, it's 11 games for those who reach the medals, but we want to be ready to do something good," he said.
"It's been a while now and we've missed it, we want it very much."