Nikos Arsenopoulos grew up as an Olympiacos Piraeus supporter, so it has been pretty special for him this season to observe and face off against his role model, Vassilis Spanoulis, in practice. The combo guard built on that experience to earn a spot on the Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Munich All-Tournament Team.
With Olympiacos competing in Europe’s elite U18 club competition this season for the first time since 2007, Arsenopoulos led the Reds to a fourth-place finish by averaging 23.5 points per game, which were the second-most in the weekend tourney. The highlight was a 41-point showing against U18 Brose Bamberg, which also helped him rank third in performance index rating at 22.8 after averaging 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 6.8 fouls drawn.
"It’s a great competition. The level of competition is huge. Coming here and getting two victories is important for us and Olympiacos. It shows our work and dedication from the whole year," said Arsenopoulos, who turns 18 years old in May. “This tournament means a start for me and every guy on the team. We hope to have a great future here."
Arsenopoulos started playing the game at about 5 years of age. He said the Reds were always his team of choice. “I was always an Olympiacos fan, always a fan of the guys. And now to be a part of this team is a huge honor,” said Arsenopoulos, who joined Olympiacos in the summer of 2016 and signed a six-year deal. “I’m still thinking about it. It’s kind of hard to realize where my position is right now, but I am just trying to do my best."
The 1.98-meter guard has already appeared in five Greek A1 league games for Olympiacos during which he has averaged 1.2 points, 0.4 rebounds and 0.6 assists over 5.2 minutes per game. “It’s a very tense experience,” he said of playing for the Reds senior squad. “But the easy part was my teammates were great. They supported me. They are great guys. Playing basketball with them is a really big honor.”
Arsenopoulos said that when he was growing up, his role models were NBA stars like Steph Curry and James Harden. But Spanoulis held a major spot in his heart as well. Spanoulis has not played in any of the five official games in which Arsenopoulos has appeared this season though they did play some friendly games before the season together.
“The only thing I have to do is just keep looking to him and watching him and learn everything from him. And hopefully I can be a great player like him one day,” said Arsenopoulos.
He said he is really watching Spanoulis and his step-side move. But there is so much to the legend to follow and observe. “His character; that’s the most important thing about him. That’s why I think he’s the best player in Europe,” Arsenopoulos said.
When asked how it is to try to guard Spanoulis in practice, Arsenopoulos laughed and offered: “He’s unguardable. You can’t guard him.”
Arsenopoulos did a good job showing at the ANGT Munich that he’s pretty tough to guard too. But the young talent is trying to stay grounded with regard to his dreams and hopes. “My dream right now is to play in the first team. Until then, that’s the first goal. I want to have smaller goals and just improve all the time.”
With that in mind, Arsenopoulos has the advantage of facing a legend – and a role model – on the practice floor on a regular basis to get better and reach the next level.