From a far enough distance, it may have looked as thought a Greek god was strolling through the winding pathways of Penn State on Thursday, June 5. Come a little closer and you'd realize the 16-year-old center from Maroussi, Greece, is no god -- although he may be a distant descendent of the Gigantes, a class of oversized and ofttimes hulking men who were closely related to the ancient gods of Greece -- but Georgios Papagiannis (No. 10 Center, No. 39 National) is an impressive specimen, nonetheless.
It's not often Penn State has someone of Papagiannis' caliber on campus for a recruiting visit. The Westtown School (Norristown, Pa.) center is rated as a four-star prospect by most recruiting services (ESPN being the notable exception, rating him as a five-star.) and has fielded scholarship offers from a number of big time programs: Georgetown, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Temple. He has also drawn the eye of Bill Self and Kansas. Clearly, PSU is fighting an uphill battle.
Standing a fully legitimate 7-foot-1, with the potential to add another inch or two, Papagiannis is a marvel anytime he steps onto a high school basketball court. Gawks and stares come initially due to his uncanny size, but as soon as he steps onto the court the onlookers remain transfixed not because of his size, but because of his skill.
At just 14 years old, he became the youngest man to ever play in the modern era of the Greek Basketball League. The lanky center led Greece to gold at the 2013 World Under-16 Basketball Tournament in Turkey with outstanding defense, a smooth shooting stroke and an undeniable height advantage. Papagiannis has a resume more impressive than nearly every prospect in the U.S.
Despite just one year of basketball experience in stateside, Papagiannis has cemented his status as one of the top prospects in the nation. He can easily control the paint at this level, in addition to possessing a soft jumper that he can knock down with relative easeHighly touted seven-footer Georgios Papagiannis took a trip to Happy Valley on June 5 for an unofficial visit with the Nittany Lions. . Papagiannis moves very nimbly for a 7-footer and is an excellent help defender, serving as a safety net for his teammates should they get in trouble. Turning some of his baby fat into muscle is going to be vital for him to become an effective one-on-one defender, but every indication is that the young Greek phenom is a hard worker who wants to perfect his game.
Papagiannis' head coach at Westtown, Seth Berger, spoke to SNY.tv earlier this year about the tantalizing big man.
"His weaknesses are on the defensive end he needs to be able to grab rebounds out of his area and he needs to stay out of foul trouble. But when he wants to, he's a great rim protector."
"He's a really unique player," Berger added. "He's 7-1, 250 pounds. Incredibly coordinated. Jumps well, shoots well, dribbles well, passes well, has really good post work and he just turned 16 in July."
His father played professionally in Greece, so basketball is as natural a part of Papagiannis' life as breathing and walking.
Papagiannis also plays on Nike's Team Takeover D.C. with Josh Reaves, one of PSU's top targets in the class of 2015. That fact alone isn't going to bring a stud like Papagiannis to Happy Valley, but going up against big time programs, a little edge like this goes a long way.
Chances of landing the Greek giant are low, but visits from players of his caliber should certainly serve to inspire hope in the Penn State faithful.