Greek import shining for Westtown

Georgios Papagiannis makes one of his nine shot blocks against Academy of the New Church in the league title game.
Georgios Papagiannis makes one of his nine shot blocks against Academy of the New Church in the league title game. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 14, 2014

Westtown's Georgios Papagiannis was a shot-blocking machine Tuesday evening against Academy of the New Church. And, understandably, ANC coach Kevin Givens grew frustrated.

"When you have someone 7-foot-1 in there, you have to stop and take a pull-up shot," Givens said. "You can't keep doing the same thing and expect a different result."

Papagiannis, a junior center who came to Westtown from Greece in September, rejected nine field-goal attempts as the host Moose stormed past the Lions, 65-39, and captured the Friends Schools League boys' basketball title.

In what was his best effort of the season, the 16-year-old also produced 16 points and the same number of rebounds, with six coming on offense.

"George has become a dominant defensive rebounder and shot-blocking presence, while having the ability to stay out of foul trouble," Westtown coach Seth Berger said. "He's learned how to use his length to contest shots without trying to block every one."

Papagiannis, whom some have projected as a potential first-round pick in the 2016 NBA draft, shot 8 for 11 from the field against ANC. Late in the first half, his alley-oop slam off a feed from Jair Bolden put the Moose in front by 24-17.

Berger said the big man has "become a lot more patient offensively. He was rushing a little bit early in the season when he was getting the ball. That changed when he became more comfortable with the speed of the U.S. game."

Six of Papagiannis' nine rejections against ANC came in the second half. Several times, he made the block and at the same time corralled the ball.

"It was his best game at the most important time," Berger said. "So you have to give the kid credit for being incredibly clutch in a tremendous pressure situation."

Papagiannis, who added another alley-oop slam late in the third quarter, is averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks.

As was the case before the season, Westtown is shielding Papagiannis from the media.

"We're just trying to let George be a kid, and let him have some fun," Berger explained in November.

According to Spencer Dunkley, who is serving as Papagiannis' mentor, serious recruiting interest has come from La Salle, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Temple.

"We're giving everyone the opportunity to come in and see him play," said Dunkley, a second-round pick in the 1993 NBA draft. "He gets a ton of letters in the mail. We're just waiting to see how things play out."

After being cut as a rookie by the Indiana Pacers, Dunkley, a standout at Delaware, played overseas for 10 years. During that time, he met Papagiannis' father, Kanellos, who played professionally in Greece.

Dunkley was asked about the possibility of Papagiannis' leaving Westtown after one year and returning to Greece to play professionally and gain experience for a potential NBA career.

"You never know what can happen," the England native said. "We haven't gotten that far yet."

Tap-ins. Neumann-Goretti senior guard Ja'Quan Newton was tabbed as the Catholic League player of the year. The Miami signee is averaging 21.5 points, 6.3 boards, and 4.2 assists. He has hit 27 three-pointers. . . . Great Valley's Mikal Bridges, a Villanova recruit, is averaging 18.7 points. . . . Tim Guers and Sam Lindgren are averaging 16.6 and 15.6 points, respectively, for Germantown Academy. Guers has drilled 27 threes for the Inter-Ac League champs.

Faith Christian junior guard Danny Ziccardi is averaging 16.3 points, with 49 threes. . . . For West Chester East this season, junior guard Evan Anderson averaged 18 points and drilled 33 treys. . . . Calvary Christian senior wing Jon Boback, a first-team all-Bicentennial League Constitution Division pick, is averaging 19.4 points.


robrien@phillynews.com

@ozoneinq

www.inquirer.com/ozone

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