Bochoridis puts exclamation mark on Aris return as Gameday 8 MVP
THESSALONIKI (Basketball Champions League) - It's taken hardly any time at all for Lefteris Bochoridis to fit in back at Aris, the famous Greek team in his hometown of Thessaloniki.
Bochoridis grew up at the club and started making a good impression there, even earning a call-up to the Greece senior squad in the summer of 2013 by former national team coach Andrea Trinchieri.
After spending a little more than two years at Panathinaikos, Bochoridis, now 23, is back at Aris and already making headlines as the Gameday 8 MVP in the Basketball Champions League.
In just his second game in the competition this week, Bochoridis poured in 22 points, dished out 9 assists and came up with 3 steals in an 80-72 win at Stelmet Zielona Gora. He finished with an efficiency mark of +32."I'm happy first of all since I've only been in the team 10 days (Aris announced his signing on December 3) and happy that it's a good performance and it was a very important win for us," he said to FIBA.basketball. "I'm happy for the whole team that we played together and got this win.
"The MVP, it was more important that the team helped me play my best and I just did my job, made some shots and again, it's important that we won."
I'm very proud to wear the (Aris) shirt. There is a lot of history and titles in the past. I've come back to help.
The victory in Poland has kept Aris in the thick of the hunt for a top four finish in Group D. They are in fifth place but with four wins and four defeats, Aris have the same record as fourth-place Sidigas Avellino.
Besiktas Sompo Japan top the group at 6-2 while Nanterre 92 and CEZ Nymburk are each 5-3 and in second and third place, respectively.
"The Basketball Champions League is a very good competition, some very good teams and competitive teams," he said. "We wanted to make it to the next round so it was very important to win."
Bochoridis views the return to Aris as a significant opportunity. He's received many as a basketball player over the years. As a youngster, he represented his country at the 2011 and 2012 U18 European Championships and the 2013 and 2014 U20 European Championships. He's hoping that the senior national team calls on him soon, too.
While at Panathinaikos, he was a teammate of Dimitris Diamantidis, a point guard that some have likened Bochoridis to since each is 1.96m (6ft 5in) tall and shoots left handed. Diamantidis will go down in history as one of the best players ever in the country.
"For sure it's an honor to be compared to Diamantidis," Bochoridis said. "I was very proud that he was my teammate for two years and I learned a lot from him. He stays humble all the time and what's most amazing about him is he takes the best decisions at the end of the game."
At Aris, Bochoridis is being coached by Panagiotis Giannakis. A point guard in the Greece team that won the FIBA EuroBasket in 1987, Giannakis is also famous for his time as the national team coach.
Giannakis' Greece pulled off a stunning comeback and beat France in the EuroBasket 2005 Semi-Finals in Belgrade before winning decisively against Germany in the title game.
In 2006, Giannakis' Greece sprung what some would call the greatest result in the nation's history, a 101-95 victory over the United States at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Japan. Bochoridis loves playing for him. "It's a great experience," he said.
Bochoridis is playing for Aris coach Panagiotis Giannakis
"He's a successful coach, a legend and for me, I had the motivation to come back to this team and play for this coach and I'm happy because he believes in me and I'm trying to repay that."
Bochoridis didn't just come up with big plays for Aris in Poland on Tuesday. He did so with panache. If he continues to show as much flair in his game as he did against Zielona Gora, it's going to endear him to his hometown fans.
When he drilled three 3-pointers, he was well beyond the arc. Bochoridis just wants to help bring the good times back to Aris, a club that hasn't won a Greek league title since before he was born, in the 1990-91 campaign.
"I'm very proud to wear the shirt," he said. "There is a lot of history and titles in the past. I've come back to help."