Michael Miller - The First Interview
Posted: Friday, June 11th 2021
Thursday, April 2nd 2015
Few can claim to have a deeper and more detailed knowledge of Great Britain's history-making men's U20 squad than Bristol Flyers' Head Coach Andreas Kapoulas.
An assistant, alongside James Vear, to Head Coach Doug Leichner, Kapoulas is entering his second summer in the role.
Prior to joining Leichner's staff and helping to secure a best-ever 11th-place finish at the U20 European Championship last year, Kapoulas led many of the same players as head coach of England U15's and U16's during 2012 and 2013 .
Those same players now compete for national team positions with Great Britain alongside players from Scotland and Wales as GB.
The former Greek youth international was appointed because of his unrivalled understanding of this special generation's development, and it has proved to be a shrewd move.
"The 95's (players born in 1995) and 96's were the T16 generation I had worked with as England coach, so it felt like the right time to get involved with the U20 programme." said Kapoulas, who also coaches Bristol Flyers in the British Basketball League.
"There is a lot of talent in all the home countries for Great Britain, and to have the opportunity to see these guys progress from the England U15's, all the way through to U20's, is a great experience.
"It is very fulfilling to see how those players have developed."
That development was on show for all to see at last year's U20 European Championship in Crete.
Following promotion from Division B in 2013, Great Britain announced their arrival in Division A by beating Latvia on day one of the tournament.
That triumph was followed by a dramatic win against hosts Greece, which held special significance for Kapoulas, although it is telling that he focuses on its wider impact.
"By beating Greece, in Crete, I was probably not very popular for a day or two," he joked.
"For an U20 side to beat a quality team like Greece, certainly shows the development of the players and what has happened with GB Basketball over the past seven or eight years.
"When the national anthem goes, it is an emotional time, but I have spent most of my adult life in Britain so it is my second home.
"As much as it was emotional, I was very pleased to see the progress we have made as GB."
Kapoulas, who moved to the UK to attend university in 1999, has also overseen major progress on the domestic front.
The 34-year-old has been a catalyst for the development of the South Gloucestershire Basketball Academy as well as steering Bristol Flyers into their first BBL season, where they sit on the brink of the play-offs.
In that role, he works daily with three players who could turn out for Great Britain's U20's this summer, in the shape of Tamas Okros, Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye and Deane Williams.
"I think this year has been valuable for them," said Kapoulas.
"Making the step up to the BBL for players of their age at 18 or 19 years old, and experiencing that type of environment has been really beneficial not only to their tactical understanding, but also the technical side of things and what they need to improve on.
"It has been a real blessing for them and they have all really improved this year.
"I am certain they would bring those experiences to the preparation phase for the national team."
There is, however, no guarantee that any player will make this summer's squad with fierce competition for places.
Leichner, Kapoulas and Vear are in constant contact with both the players and each other throughout the year, with planning very much an ongoing process.
This heightens the importance of their ability to work effectively as a team - something Kapoulas has relished.
"I understand what the head coach wants, because I do that on a day-to-day basis during the season, so hopefully that insight helps me to be a good assistant coach," said Kapoulas
"The chemistry of the coaching staff has been very good and I think the players see that and it has been part of the success the programme has had."
"When you see the coaching staff working so well, the players buy into the programme even more, which has been a key ingredient for us."
The coaching trio certainly uncovered a recipe for success last summer. But that has only fuelled the hunger for more in 2015 and there are few better placed to satisfy that ambition.
"We have the born 95 players returning from last year and some new additions with the 96's so it is a very talented generation and we are very aware of that," added Kapoulas.
"As Coach Leichner says, we are here to win a championship, so that's what we will try to do until someone tells us we can't.
"We are not going to the European Championship thinking about just staying in Division A. We want to compete in every game and see how far we can go in the competition."
The 2015 edition of the U20 European Championship takes place in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy from 7-19 July. To find out more click here.
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