ST. FRANCIS, Wis. -- He is known as the "Greek Freak" for his spectacular athleticism and sometimes "The Alphabet" because his name challenges spell-checkers the way he takes on defenders.
But it's important to remember that Giannis Antetokounmpo is 18 years old and on his own in a foreign city while trying to learn a grown man's game.
"It's hard to adjust because I have to get used to the city and American life and not just basketball, but the NBA," the Bucks' first-round pick from Athens said.
"To tell the truth it's boring. I'm alone over here and I don't have a lot of things to do. The times when I have fun is when I come here."
Too young to enter the clubs his teammates might patronize, Antetokounmpo walks the streets near the downtown hotel where he lives after practice. But he really lives for the moments he can return to the Cousins Center, where he is among the first to arrive and last to leave.
Monday, for example, the lanky 6-foot-9 swingman stayed long after practice to work on his outside shot with Nick Van Exel, the former NBA star from Kenosha, Wis., who is now an assistant with the Bucks. Then it was straight to the weight room, where the Bucks are trying to turn a teenager's physique into an NBA body.
"Basketball-wise, he needs to improve his strength," Van Exel said. "Being stronger with the ball."
Otherwise, the Bucks are beginning to suspect they may have caught lightning in a bottle with this very raw but potentially explosive talent.
"He is capable of grabbing the rebound and taking it the length of the court," Van Exel said. "He has to get to the point where he is comfortable doing that here. I tell him all the time, 'Look, sometimes when you get that ball off the rebound, don't be afraid to make a play.'
"What he's doing now is dribbling it across half-court and just passing it to the guards. We want to see him make plays because he has that capability. If he's able to do that, it strengthens our ballclub."
In Greece, Antetokounmpo almost always had the ball in his hands. The Bucks are teaching him how to work without it. But the beauty is, he showed up unconcerned about fitting into the NBA. He just showed up with his natural skills, ready for anything.
"With him right now, it's 20 percent athleticism and 80 percent mental," Van Exel said. "The mental is not there yet. He's still a high school kid, so it's going to take time for him to develop. But he learns very quickly. His potential is unbelievable. I think he wants to be a good player because he works at it."
Last week in Cleveland, Antetokounmpo appeared out of nowhere to block a shot from behind. Against Charlotte, he slammed home a rebound way above the crowd. It is plays such as those that already have the league buzzing about what could be a special talent. Meanwhile, the Bucks are trying to decide the pace at which to bring him along. They don't necessarily have to play him a lot this season, but they might not be able to keep him out of the rotation.
It's the work that keeps the young man going as he navigates life beyond the court.
"I'm OK," he said. "It's fun. I thought maybe when I came from Europe I might go to another team. I didn't know the guys. I didn't know the coaches. But it's been like my second family. I feel very nice about being in Milwaukee. I feel like I'm in my family."
Which, of course, doesn't mean he isn't immune to the standard rookie treatment.
"I'm the youngest player," he said. "Sometimes I'm upset, but you have to respect your teammates because they're older than you. You have to do the things like bring water. You have to do the rookie stuff. Sometimes I'm upset but I don't mind because I'm the youngest guy on the team and I have to do it."
Consider it part of the continuing education of Giannis Antetokounmpo, on and off the floor.
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