The Greek Journey
Nicholas Paulos is entering his 2nd year of professional basketball. He has joined AEK in Athens, Greece. He shares his journey as he starts training camp and new season with a new team.
My name is Nicholas Paulos, I am entering my second year of professional ball overseas since graduating from The University of North Carolina Greensboro in 2015. This season I am playing for AEK Athens in the Greek A1 division and playing out of Athens, Greece. I first arrived in Athens on August 15th where I was put through a number of physicals and tests before the start of training camp to make sure I was healthy and able to play. As I have already learned in my short time in Europe, even simple meetings, schedules, and procedures can become very difficult tasks, this includes the day of physicals. The schedule was to be picked up from the hotel at 10 A.M. to be taken to the hospital. The driver arrived promptly at 10:40 and, ironically, proceeded to smoke a cigarette in the car on the way to the health exam. As I arrived with a number of my teammates, there was some confusion from the doctors as to whom and when were supposed to be taking exams and we spent about 4 hours at the hospital completing roughly 30 min of examinations. However, I was finally cleared and off to training camp.
Our training camp was taking place in the mountains of Slovenia in a town called Kranjska Gora. As a team we took a flight from Athens to Venice, Italy. Our flight was delayed about 45 minutes as there were some of my teammates who physically could not fit in their seats and there were other passengers unwilling to give up their exit row seats. Eventually, they were persuaded and we made the 3-hour flight to Venice. After landing in Venice we got on a bus and traveled another 3-hours, passing through Austria, to our destination to Slovenia. This was the first time that I had been in 4 different countries in one day!
Training camp lasted a grueling 18 days where we practiced 2 times a day on most days. Morning practices consisted of some combination of weight lifting, conditioning, skill development, and implementing the teams’ playbook. After time to rest in the afternoon, we had a full practice between 2-3 hours long. It was very strenuous and I made sure to take full advantage of the training staff’s treatment and massage therapy. We ate 4 meals a day in the hotel, which provided decent food, but as you can imagine got pretty redundant after 18 days. We had 1 day off, which many of us used to explore the area and find some pretty amazing scenery. We played 3 exhibition or “friendly” games as they call them in Europe. It was good to finally compete against someone other than ourselves. After training camp finished we returned to Athens to continue preparation for the upcoming season. All of the American guys on the team went to TGI Fridays when we got back to combat the last 3 weeks of Slovenian hotel food, which consisted of some form of chicken and potatoes.
I am still looking to get settled into an apartment in Athens and have been living in different hotel rooms for over a month and living out of a suitcase. This has been difficult and frustrating at times, but I have tried to remain focused on my job and bringing it to practice everyday. The season is right around the corner and I’m looking forward to starting to play real games!