Milwaukee's newest import: the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo
MILWAUKEE - It's a name difficult to pronounce, even for the man who drafted the newest Milwaukee Bucks player, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"After the draft, probably 11:30," Bucks General Manager John Hammond said, "I said to (Media Relations Director) Dan Smyczek, 'can you forward that pronunciation to me?' Yeah. So...we're doing our best."
For the record, Giannis Antetokounmpo is pronounced [YAHN-is anh-teh-toe-KUHN-po], but for now , simply "Giannis" will probably suffice when addressing Antetokounmpo.
Whatever you call him, he was a virtual unknown with a lot of learning, but a ton of potential, say the scouts, in an NBA Draft from last week that was said to be short on stars. Just 18 years old, Antetokounmpo was the youngest player in the draft. And until a couple of weeks ago, had never traveled far from the homeland that his parent immigrated to, Greece.
"This is my first time in the United States," a grinning Antetokounmpo said on Friday morning after his introductory news conference at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. "I feel very excited to be in the United States, seeing New York, and I am very happy."
Antetokounmpo has only been speaking English for about one year, but is anxious to learn as much as he can about American culture. He will also have his family in Milwaukee to help him adjust.
The 18-year-old is particularly happy that he can finally provide a way for his family to escape the poor neighborhood that he and his family grew up in back home in Athens. But how can anyone be expected to handle such a radical culture shock and then go to work and do his job?
"It's difficult," Hammond admitted. "I don't want to keep saying that the basketball, the being on the floor between then lines is going to be the easy part. But to a certain extent, it will be. it's can he handle everything that goes along with getting to the floor."
And that's the big question that will need to be answered, along with the question of can someone who so little is known about turn into a star. But, just by virtue of securing a guaranteed contract, Antetokounmpo is a star provider in his heretofore poor family.
"We're going to have a better life," he concluded. "My brothers will get to go to better schools."
So while the culture and the NBA game may at this point still elude 18-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo, his mind is never far from his very close knit family.