In 2009, Nick Calathes made the unusual move of leaving a college powerhouse like Florida as a sophomore to sign a contract with a European giant like Panathinaikos. The 6-foot-6 guard, whose draft rights are owned by the Dallas Mavericks, doesn’t look back on what could have been and is now shooting for a Euroleague title with the Greek club.
You played at the World Championship with the Greek National Team last year. How was that experience?
Nick Calathes: It was good. Obviously being in that kind of atmosphere and fighting for a World Championship is a great honor. Obviously playing for Greece is a great honor as well. We wish we could have done better. We had some tough games. You know, right now I’m focused on Panathinaikos, but it was a great honor.
Was there any pressure for you to join the Greek National Team? As in, “We give you the Greek passport, but you have to play for the National Team afterwards.”
NC: No, no. Not at all. It was an honor for me to play for Greece, play for my heritage and my family. Hopefully I can play as many years as possible.
Is it your grandparents that come from Greece?
NC: Yes, my grandfather.
Did you speak any Greek before coming to Europe?
NC: No, I don’t. But I plan on learning sooner or later. For sure. I’m catching up now. I’ve been here for two years. I have to to be able to play with the National Team. As of right now, I’m at a point where I gotta learn and I want to learn.
How was the transition from playing in college in the U.S. to European basketball?
NC: Definitely different. Different kind of style. It’s more up-and-down in the States. I think over here is more physical and more system-oriented. You just have to get used to it and I think I’m getting better and better at it. Hopefully I’ll keep learning.
How about the crowds? You have a good amount of fans at home with Panathinaikos, but not so much when you play away against some Greek teams.
NC: It just depends on who you play. In college you got huge crowds at every game. In Greece when you play a bad team you won’t get much of a crowd, but you just have to come out and get ready to play every game.
Your decision to play in Europe was something that you had thought about in advance or was an in-the-moment decision?
NC: I mean, it was kind of in the moment. I thought it was a great opportunity for me and a great step in my career to learn the style over here and mix it up with the style in the U.S. I couldn’t have asked for a better decision. I like the decision I made. Now I just have to keep getting better as a player and that’s that.
How many years you have left on your contract with Panathinaikos?
NC: There’s a team option next year.
And what’s going to happen?
NC: I can’t tell the future. I’m just going to keep playing. Hopefully we will win a Euroleague championship and things like that. Right now I’m not focused on that. We’re in the Final Four and that’s the main thing. I hope I can help this team win.
Have you spoken with the Mavericks lately?
NC: From time to time, yes I do. But I leave that to my agent. I leave that to everybody else. I don’t worry about anything like that.