Credit: imago images/kolbert-press-Scanpix
Credit imago images/kolbert-press-Scanpix

In the world of basketball, it is common to find a player and coach who enjoy a special bond. Many times when head coaches switch jobs, they may reach out to former players to join them at their new club.

The bond between Panathinaikos OPAP Athens forward Okaro White and Coach Dimitris Priftis is even stronger, as the former explained to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague website: “Coach Priftis is everything to me. Yes, he’s my coach, but he’s more like family.”

This season marks the third one in which the two have worked together. Priftis first recruited White to Greece to play for Aris Thessaloniki in 2015. They reunited last season in Russia with UNICS Kazan and then came to Panathinaikos together over the summer.

The click between the two happened quickly, but it wasn’t instant. White, who played his first professional season in Italy with Virtus Bologna in 2014-15, had a bit of a rough time when he first got to Aris.

“It was difficult because I wasn’t familiar with anything in Greece, and I didn’t know none of the teammates that I was going to go play with,” White recalled. “And then when I got there, [Priftis] was gone for a couple of weeks because he was with the national team.”

Priftis soon returned from helping Greece to a fifth-place finish at EuroBasket 2015 and immediately went to work. His work ethic made quite an impression on White.

“From Day One, we were working. Working hard. We ended up having a good season, a really good season. I believe he coached great that year,” White added.

Aris had a 10-6 record in the 7DAYS EuroCup and missed the elimination rounds on a tiebreaker. It had the third-best record in the Greek League regular season and took Panathinaikos the distance in the best-of-five playoff semifinals, too.

3-pointers this season

20%
4,0
Points made: 4,0
Accuracy: 20,0%
Place in standings: 18
Record max: 4
Record min: 4
Most made 3FGs: Daryl Macon

White credited his coach for Aris’s strong campaign.

“He’s a tactical guy,” White explained. “He will study something, study something, break it down, break it down, and come up with a full tactical gameplan. Okay, we might be on paper here [he points low], and they are here [higher], but with this gameplan, this is the successful gameplan to beat them or have a chance to beat them. I like that about him. He studies the game, and he’s a big brain of the game.”

That summer, White returned to the United States and ended up signing to play for the Miami Heat in the NBA. Even so, his relationship with Priftis endured.

They would talk and text, and when the latter visited the United States in the summers, they made a point to get together. White decided that if he ever came back to play in Europe again, he would play for Priftis.

After a few more seasons in the NBA and the G-League, White decided the time had come for him to return to Europe. And it worked out just as planned.

“Luckily, last year, the opportunity presented itself, and [UNICS] had an open position at my position. And I got to go play for him, and we had a good year there, a very good year for the team.”

Just how good of a year? UNICS reached the EuroCup Finals and, in doing so, clinched a ticket to this season’s EuroLeague. White averaged 10.1 points and 5.4 rebounds. Then UNICS reached the VTB United League Finals, where it lost to CSKA Moscow.

When the season was over, Panathinaikos moved quickly to sign Priftis. A few weeks later, White affixed his signature to a deal to join Priftis in the Greek capital. White dod so not only because he thinks Priftis is an excellent coach but because he respects him.

“What he says is what it is. He can tell me one thing, and I can trust his words on this thing. He is true. And he follows, and he leads with his heart,” White explained. “He leads with work ethic, and he believes you’ve gotta work hard to get what you want. And that’s how it is in life, you gotta work hard to get what you want.”

White is optimistic – and realistic – about his first season in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. He understands that the expectations at Panathinaikos are always high. He also knows that with Priftis leading the way, great things are possible.

“I know what he’s going to do. He’s going to work his butt off so he can put the best possible team on the court. I have to do the same. And not just in practice, individually I have to be working outside of practice,” White said.

“They say the third time is the charm. It was a charm the first time and the second time, so hopefully it’s another charm,” he summed up. “I hope we do the unthinkable this year.”

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Coach Barry ottawaCeltics Ottawa canada
Please do interview on Marial Shayok who plays in Turkish league. Everyone proud of him. Drafted in 2 nd round in 2019 with Philadelphia 76 ers. He is a great young player . Thank you.
2022-02-02
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Okaro White

Okaro  White
Team: Panathinaikos Athens
Position: PF
Age: 29
Height: 203 cm
Weight: 98 kg
Birth place: Brooklyn, United States of America