Battle

Greek duo anchors Franklin Pierce’s starting lineup, adds international experience

Courtesy of Franklin Pierce University Athletic Communications

Georgios Papapetrou left Greece to play basketball in the United States, and is now one one of the Ravens' most reliable players. He's averaging 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Four-year-old Georgios Papapetrou sat in the stands of Greek league basketball games, fiddling a basketball around his fingers. He juggled the ball in his hands, watching the games and itching to be on the court.

From a young age, Papapetrou has been searching for the best basketball competition the world has to offer. To do this, his travels have taken him to the United States.

Unlike many Division-II schools, where the rosters are dominated by local players, Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H., has taken a less-frequented recruiting path: adding European players. Internationals have shaped the team’s identity, turning the Ravens into Northeast-10 Conference champions after placing 15th in the preseason poll.

This year’s Ravens (11-4, 8-3) have four Europeans, including Papapetrou, a junior transfer from Ranger College in Ranger, Texas, and fellow Greek AdrianosVourliotakis Perdikaris.

“I think that the international route is a good one for us because they come in, most often they’re very good students, and they appreciate the opportunity to play in the States,” Franklin Pierce head coach David Chadbourne said. “… I feel very fortunate to have the internationals that we have. This specific group has really impacted the program in such a positive way.”

Chadbourne said it’s the Greek duo, especially as willing passers, that’s shaped the team’s mindset to share the ball and shoot often from the perimeter. Vourliotakis is the team’s center but isn’t afraid to dribble or step back to take an 18-footer.

“Because of the players that we’ve brought in and the internationals that we have, we’re playing to suit them more than them to suit us,” Chadbourne said. “And it’s fit with us really well.”

Papapetrou and Vourliotakis have anchored the starting unit and filled the box scores: Vourliotakis is fourth in points, second in rebounds and third in assists, while Papapetrou is sixth in scoring, third in rebounding and first in assists.

Their on-court chemistry and off-court friendship began seven years ago in Greece when both were called to practice with the Greek youth national team, and grew when they were teammates on the club team Greek One. They came to the United States four years ago, both attending prep school at Maine Central Institute.

When choosing colleges, Papapetrou went to Ranger, where last year he helped guide the program to its first conference title in 43 years. Vourliotakis went straight to Franklin Pierce.

Chadbourne said he has a good contact in Greece, but it’s the international players who have positive experiences at Franklin Pierce that recruit for him. Players have come to Franklin Pierce from Lithuania, England and Canada.

“Once you get a player from a certain country or a certain area and they have a good experience, they’ll recruit for you,” Chadbourne said. “They’ll help go get another one.”

Vourliotakis did just that. Though they originally went to different colleges, Papapetrou and Vourliotakis continued to talk on Skype and on the phone. When an opportunity came up for Papapetrou to transfer, Franklin Pierce seemed like the right fit.

As a child in the stands, Papapetrou watched his father Argiris, a Greek star and 11-year player for the Greek national team. Papapetrou said Europeans play more tactically than Americans, with players in all positions able to shoot and dribble. He also said European scouting is better.

At the same time, he said Americans are more physically dominant and every man on the roster is capable of guarding a starter, whereas in Europe rotations are only eight to nine players deep.

Vourliotakis agreed.

“That’s why we’re successful,” Vourliotakis said. “We combine those two things: the athletic ability and the skills and higher IQ.”

Paul Dick, a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, rooms with the Greek players.

“It’s pretty nice to have the opportunity to take the sport more seriously than you can take it in Ireland,” Dick said. “The competition level is obviously a lot more intense, so it makes it that much better.”

Franklin Pierce’s four European players double the two it has from its home state of New Hampshire. It’s because of their contributions and cohesion with their American teammates that the Ravens are in third place in the Northeast-10 Conference and are poised for another postseason run.

As for the future of the team’s international recruiting, said Chadbourne: “It’s something that is certainly part of our game plan.”

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