Georgios Papagiannis is a 7-foot-1, 235 pound center from Greece. He could be a huge get for a program late in the recruiting process and has the potential to be an immediate impact player for whatever school he decides to play college basketball for next season...if he decides to play college basketball at all next season.
Papagiannis played the 2013-14 season for Westtown School (Pa.) -- his only year of high school basketball in the United States -- before signing a multi-year contract with Panathinaikos, one of the best teams in Greece. Seth Berger, Papagiannis' coach at Westtown, has said he would be a one and done type of player in college and a top five pick in the NBA draft due to his rare combination of size and skill. Despite being under contract, he can still play college basketball. According to Eurohoops report after he signed the deal last June,
In his contract there's also an opt out clause for the summers of 2015 and 2016. Since he is underage, he can keep his amateur status and try playing in the NCAA in the 2015-16 season. For the 2014-15 season he will have an amateur athlete license which will not belong to Panathinaikos BC, but to Panathinaikos amateur sport club, the entity from which every pro team emerged, according to Greek legislation.
The clause in the contract presumably would also allow him to return to Panathinaikos this year, then go to college or directly into the NBA draft next year if he chooses.
Ranked the No. 84 overall player, No. 11 center, and No. 2 player from the state of Pennsylvania in the class of 2015 by 247sports.com, the big man has a host of schools vying for his services. Papagiannis holds offers from B1G schools Maryland, Penn State, and Rutgers. Others on a growing list of potential suitors include Oregon, UConn, Kentucky, St. John's, and N.C. State.
Papagiannis will turn 18 this summer. Zagsblog.com says he's expected to make his decision very soon. "It sounds like the kid's going to make a decision in June," an anonymous college basketball assistant coach that's involved in his recruiting told SNY.tv. The assistant also agreed with Berger's assertion that Papagiannis could be a first round NBA draft pick as soon as 2016. Multiple coaches have made the trip overseas to see Papagiannis, but it's still not a sure thing that he wants to leave Greece right now.
Last summer at the U17 FIBA World Championship, Papagiannis averaged 8.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks. He scored 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished out 3 assists against a USA team that included top prospects such as Henry Ellenson (Marquette), Diamond Stone (Maryland), and Caleb Swanigan (Purdue) among others.
Papagiannis has the soft shooting touch that we see from so many big men coming out of Europe. He's got great hands around the basket and can easily shoot over most defenders, extending all the way out to three-point range. He's not a spectacular athlete, but very coordinated for his size. He can get above the rim to finish putbacks and alley-oops with ease. He's able to run the floor well and has the ball-handling skill to help bring the ball up court to break a press when needed. He plays with a high basketball IQ, quickly identifying double teams in the post and finding open teammates.
Defensively, he's a disruptive presence and can't help deterring smaller players from getting near the basket. "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," said Berger. "But when he wants to, he's a great rim protector."
With many already tabbing Maryland as the 2015-16 preseason No. 1, bringing in a player of Papagiannis' stature would only add to the hype and expectations. Putting Papagiannis with incoming freshman center Diamond Stone, the No. 6 recruit in the nation, would be a major coup. Penn State and Rutgers don't have as high hopes for landing Papagiannis since his recruitment has heated up, but it doesn't hurt to try. He made an unofficial visit to Penn State a year ago before returning to Greece.
The competition he's playing against in Greece is regarded as higher quality than what high school players in the United States face on a regular basis. It's tough to predict whether Papagiannis' international-style game will transfer immediately in the NCAA or if he will end up being more of a project, but everyone agrees it's worth a shot.