Coaches Key in Papapetrou Recruitment

Coaches Key in Papapetrou Recruitment

The best way to find out more about Texas commitment Ioannis Papapetrou, a mystery man who didn't play much AAU basketball? Ask his coaches, both the ones who coached him and the ones who recruited him.

It's also appropriate to do so in that a coach's recommendation was what kick-started Papapetrou's recruitment in the first place. Rob Lanier was a Florida assistant coach when he received a call from Aubin Goporo, the head coach at Florida Air Academy. Goporo had produced several of talented collegians, including Walter Hodge and Will Yeguete at Florida and Sasha Kaun at Kansas.

"Aubin Goporo is a terrific coach. And he knows players. So when he told me that the kid was really good, that was a pretty good head start for me because I really value his opinion as a coach," Lanier said. "So I went in there with an expectation that really, Ioannis exceeded."

That Papapetrou exceeded those expectations was something of a marvel in itself: Goporo described him as a Chandler Parsons-type player. A versatile athlete for the Gators, Parsons averaged double-figure scoring outputs his last two years on campus, was a strong rebounder and is now a rotational player with the Houston Rockets.

When Lanier returned to the Texas staff, he brought Papapetrou's name with him. Of course, by then, his recruitment had started to heat up. Lanier's former employer, the Gators, were in the thick of it, and when the Longhorns entered in, they found conference rival and basketball blue blood Kansas entering the fray. Lanier told Texas coach Rick Barnes about what he had found, a 6-foot-8 forward capable of playing multiple positions and filling a number of roles within a basketball team.

Like Lanier, Barnes made the trip to Florida Air Academy. And like Lanier, Barnes came away impressed with the way his new prospect was coached.

"Rob sent me down there to see him, and the day I saw him, he was spectacular," Barnes said. "But the thing that stood out to me was his coach and the way they worked. You knew right away you were going to get a guy who had been coached, a guy that had been pushed. As they started playing games, it never got sloppy. That program has so much discipline, and the work ethic's there.

"He was terrific that day," Barnes said. "He made a lot of shots, passed, played everywhere on the floor and I actually walked out and told Coach Lanier: 'There isn't a spot on the floor where he can't be effective.'"

The work ethic. Ask Lanier, Barnes or Goporo to talk about Papapetrou, and it's one of the first phrases they'll use to describe the talented forward. In fact, it's that work ethic that Goporo said Papapetrou used to take his primary weakness and turn it into a strength.

"He improved a lot during his time here," Goporo said. "The biggest part of his game that he improved was that before, everything was offense. He was offensive-minded, and wasn't as good on defense. But he made that a point, and this year, he was one of the best defenders on the team."

Papapetrou was somewhat of a mystery to many talent evaluators because he didn't play much AAU ball. But once he got onto the court for his high school team, it was impossible not to notice him. He scored 20 points per game, hit 40 three-pointers and led Florida Air Academy to a 21-5 record, including a 7-1 league mark, and was named county player of the year. And along the way, he picked the Longhorns over the Gators and the Jayhawks, signing with Texas in the early signing period.

"He's a guy who is pretty good at a lot of things on the basketball court," Lanier said. "He's a worker. He can shoot the ball, handle the ball, pass the ball. He's a guy that just brings a lot to the table. He definitely has a great understanding and feel for the game."

Barnes added that Papapetrou's versatility meant that there were many places the Longhorns could use him.

"The fact that he has a really good basketball mind and the fact that he works like he works, he gives himself so many opportunities to play because he can do so many things," Barnes said. "And he's going to get better because he has just a tremendous work ethic. We're really excited about him."

Lanier said that team members must earn their roles once they get to campus, but added that the Longhorns envision Papapetrou as somebody who could play anything from a point forward to a pick-and-pop power forward using his ball-handling and shooting to create difficult matchups.

Papapetrou has hardly been resting since the end of Florida Air Academy's season. The season ended on a Thursday, and Friday afternoon he was back in the gym.

"He still calls me on Saturdays to come open the gym for him so he can work out," Goporo said. "Last week, we were taking all of the kids to Disney (World), and he refused to come. He wanted to be here and work out."

Goporo eventually convinced Papapetrou that he needed to go with his friends and have fun, but the point remained: "he wants to get better."

"He's so focused," Goporo said. "He called Todd Wright (Texas basketball strength and conditioning coach) and asked if he could mail the workout program to follow. (Wright) sent the DVD, and it's almost like the Bible for this kid. I can tell you that he's very excited, and he can't wait to get on campus."

And the Texas coaches can't wait to get him in. Because while Papapetrou might have flown under the radar of many people, Lanier was quick to point out that the Longhorns knew exactly what they had.

"He didn't fly under Bill Self's radar. He didn't fly under Anthony Grant's radar. He didn't fly under Billy Donovan's radar," Lanier said. "So the guy had some great options because coaches went to see him play and made those evaluations for themselves.

"A lot of that started with Aubin's credibility," Lanier said. "I think a lot of people who know Aubin respect him enough as a coach to at least take the time to take a look. And once people took a look, they liked what they saw."

That includes Barnes.

"He might come in as one of the most underappreciated players from a national reputation standpoint that we've coached," Barnes said. "He's got a lot that he can do. He's somebody that I'm really excited about.

"I just think that people here are going to fall in love with him," Barnes said. "He's a guy that wants to come in and help us win, and you love guys that come from winning programs and have been taught how to win."

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