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Loukas Mavrokefalides, Maroussi Costa Coffee
Jan 12, 2009
by Vassilis Skountis, Greece
Going into the last week of the Eurocup regular season, Maroussi Costa Coffee not only holds its Last 16 fate in its hands, but can rely on another pair of huge ones belonging to Loukas Mavrokefalides to carry the team if necessary. At 25, the 2.08-meter Mavrokefalides is well-travelled as one of the most promising big men in Europe, but since landing at Maroussi this season, he has truly thrived. Through the first five Eurocup games in Group A, Mavrokefalides is leading Maroussi with 15.2 points per game while shooting 58% on two-pointers and 85.7% on free throws. Maroussi visits Chorale Roanne in France on Tuesday knowing that a victory sends it to the Last 16 no matter what. Expect an inspired Mavrokefalides to lead the charge. "Although my numbers are improved, I am still not satisfied," he told Eurocupbasketball.com. "I feel that I can play much better and remain at a high level, but I have to prove it to everybody."
Mavrokefalides, which means "the man with a black head", started to play basketball at the age of eight, when his father put a backboard in the courtyard of their house. He later moved to PAOK, one of the famous clubs in nearby Thessaloniki, where he spent five seasons and made his name in both Greek and international basketball. "PAOK is a big part of my life, not only my career," Mavrokefalides says. "I have a lot of memories from there, playing together with Kostas Vassiliadis and Panagiotis Vassilopoulos. I met them again last year in Olympiacos, but the conditions have changed and things are more professional than in our adolescence."
In that process of professionalism, the summer of 2006 was a turning point for Mavrokefalides. He had just been named the Greek League's most improved player after averaging 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, ranking third and second, respectively, in those categories. After being selected in the second round of the NBA draft by Minnesota that June, Mavrokefalides chose instead to move within Europe and play for Virtus Roma of Italy. Also that summer, he battled hard to try to be on the Greek national team and was cut just three hours before the tipoff of the World Championships, where Greece took the silver medal. "It was a great summer, full of experiences and emotions," he confirms. "I had the opportunity to open my horizons and think more seriously about my career."
Although Mavrokefalidis is considered as a talented player with a lot of potential , things didn't work for him as well as he expected after leaving PAOK. He lasted only half a season in Rome, then was transferred to Pamesa Valencia of Spain. "I had some injuries and adjustment problems which didn't allow me to play as I could, either in Roma or in Valencia," he says. After the 2006-07 season, Mavrokefalidis came back to Greece and signed for Olympiacos, where he teamed up again with his former PAOK buddies Vassiliadis and Vassilopoulos, not to mention his mentor, assistant coach Giannis Sferopoulos. He averaged only 3.7 points, however, not enough for him to stay in Piraeus, so this season he moved once again, to Maroussi.
Eight years after his professional debut, Mavrokefalides is a player who still calls plenty of attention. Despite his size, that of a classic power forward, he has outstanding technique and impressive flexibility that allow him to use plenty of moves and maneuvers on offense. And he plans on getting better. "There is always room to improve things in your game: the defense, the speed, the moves at the low post, even the basics, such as shooting, dribbling and passing," he says. "Now, looking back to my early days, I realize that I was a little bit lazy."
On his fifth team in just four seasons, Mavrokefalidis has obviously found Maroussi to his liking - and vice-versa.
"Now I feel good and I am working hard in order to take advantage of the opportunities," he says. "I have no excuses for my ups and downs, but now I am getting more experience and maturity. Now, I believe that I need less changes and more stability in my career in order to get mature and stabilize my game on one decent level."
Maturity has had more effect than just better numbers and a successful situation at the end of the Eurocup regular season. Mavrokefalides feels happy at Maroussi.
"I feel the joy of the game," he emphasizes. "I feel lucky but also blessed because my main concern is still the game, and I try to find a new motivation every day for improving my game. When I was a child, my dream was to play in the Greek League and on the national team. Now I am 25 years old and my goals are to win a title, to stay healthy and to live every moment on the court with the same energy. I hope I will stay at a good level and help my team to achieve it goals both in the Greek League and the Eurocup, where we have big ambitions."