[CHICAGO, IL, USA] The Chicago Greek community is beaming with pride this week as one of our own was recently selected to play for the National Juniors basketball team for Greece! At just 15 years of age, Deerfield High School (Ilinois) All-State player Nicolette “Nikki’ Kerstein, a National Hellenic Invitational Basketball Tournament (NHIBT) standout as well, traveled to New York this Spring for the Greek SuperLeague Athletic Academy basketball showcase event, organized by James Pristouris. Members of Federation of Greece Athletics were on hand to scout players whom they hope will one day represent Greece in the highest levels of international competition. Nikki was the only player, male or female, chosen to join the national team at this time.
Already the news has hit the Motherland, with Nikki getting featured on ANT TV in Greece. “I was really excited to be selected, and also being the only player picked,” Nikki told us. “It’s an awesome opportunity.”
Nikki, A 5’8 point guard, is a lightning-quick, silky-smooth ball handler, deft passer, ferocious defender, and as an added bonus is arguably the best shooter in the entire state of Illinois, having gone downstate her freshman year for the annual three point shootout. She’s so advanced, both physically and talent-wise, for her age group, we’ve been informed Greece might even play her at times with squads two to three years above her age level.
“That girl puts in the work,” said Deerfield girls head coach Nicole Keith. “She could have a bad shooting night and then go right back in the gym. She’s determined to shoot 1000 shots in and above what’s required in practice. She’s the first one in the gym, her and her sister, and last ones to leave. Nikki won the 100% effort award at our school. She truly embodies that you play how you practice. She’s going 100%. She deserves all that she’s receiving. I’m so incredibly honored to have her.”
We asked the coach about demeanor. “She’s very stoic so you’d never know the emotions going on in her,” revealed Keith. “Nikki was quiet in her own right. She led by her play. But there were moments when someone said something and Nikki knew when she was right and she’d correct it. She’s the quiet assassin. Even last year as a freshman, you’d never know, in close games, she’s never shaken.”
The coach continued with effusive praise. “She also has a very high IQ. Sees the floor incredibly well. She can play the point and shooting guard. She’s hitting at a high percentage of her shots. Knows where to be with or without the ball. I think she’s got so much untapped upside.”
Nikki and her older sister, Alexis “Lexi” Kerstein, this past winter led Deerfield to its first-ever trip to the Final 4, playing in one of the state’s most talent-rich regions. Lexi, also an All-State selection, graduated high school in May and will continue her basketball career at the University of Vermont this Fall. She may at some point join Team Greece but for now her college commitment, which begins in August, precludes her from competing.
The Kerstein sisters were sensations from their freshman year on, gaining All-State recognition. As a freshman and sophomore, Nikki accomplished something no other player in the state matched: She’s the only player to record 500 or more points, shoot 50-percent or better, record more than 125 assists, more than 125 steals, more than 125 rebounds, and less than 2.0 turnovers per game. Nikki also maintains a 3.9 GPA out of 4.0. She plays for Illinois Elite in the AAU, and has already been offered 31 college scholarships and counting.
The two girls come from a rich athletic tradition. Their father, Greek American William Kerstein, was an All-American football running back at Deerfield in the late 80’s who signed to play at Miami University in Florida. “It’s like a family reunion on the walls of our school, with all the pictures of dad, Lexi, and now me too,” said Nikki, who’s also played a few games at her mom’s alma mater. Her dad was also MVP of the high school division of the Harry Agganis Memorial Basketball Tournament in Massachusetts, the nation’s second-largest and second longest-running national Greek tournament. William’s grandfather, Pakia native John Kaulentis, is an NHIBT Hall-of-Famer. The girls’ mother, Anastasia “Tasia” Georganas Kerstein, is a former state champion and All-State basketball player at Maine West High School who went on to become a four-year starter at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Tasia is also well-known for singing in her father Ionnis “John” Georganas’ popular Greek band, the Opa Orchestra. John, who hails from Icalia, was one of the finest bouzouki players in the states.
Back to hoops, Nikki relates the experience playing with, and sometimes competing against her older sister. “We’re always pushing one another to be better. It’s definitely competitive. It’s good to push each other. Brings out the better sides of our games. But we’re always supporting each other at the same time. She promotes me and I love talking about her too.” Their coach chimed in, “There’s a rivalry. They’re very competitive. There’s some sister moments where I had to step in on a couple occasions. But they have great respect for each other on that court.”
Favorite thing about Greece? “It looks amazing,” Nikki said. “The art and temples and relics. The culture going back thousands of years, the great thinkers and philosophers, is really inspirational. And my mom told me so much about Mykonos I just have to visit. My favorite movie is Mama Mia. Me, Lexi and my mom have seen it maybe 100 times and the scenes in Greece are incredible. We can sing every line of the movie. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is another go-to film. Once you see those images, you think wow I just have to go there.”
As most youngsters are wont to do at her age, she likes to hang out with friends “driving around, movies, social media.” But what does Nikki love most about basketball? “It’s really a place where I can let everything go,” revealed Nikki. “It’s almost like I’m stress free, not a care in the world.”
In preparation for Greece and European tournaments, Nikki has hit up Google translate “a lot, trying to figure out common sentences. At least the main words so I can try to communicate and interact better in the native language. That’s going to be a big part of my experience. Since New York, I’ve made an effort to read up on basketball in Europe too. I feel like it’s going to be a different style and I’m bringing a different style. Hopefully I can bring something new to them and we can we can all learn from each other.”
The Kerstein girls played for Papaflessas in the NHIBT and at the Detroit Pan Orthodox Tournament.
3-point shootout downstate 2022
[CHICAGO, IL] Two weeks to go until the 93rd annual National Hellenic Invitational Basketball Tournament (NHIBT) tips off, March 30-April 2 in Chicago. Last week we featured local area boys high school varsity players. This week, it’s the girls and they’re giving the boys all they can handle! Again, NHIBT brackets will be stacked for the foreseeable future.
Did we miss anyone? Let us know on the NHIBT facebook page. We’re mostly familiar with the Chicago-Northwest Indiana region but please do send note of kids outside the NHIBT geographic area
(NOTE: All are Illinois high schools unless otherwise designated; 31 girls and counting, including 7 Fresh/Soph…)
Anastasia Andrianopoulos, SR., Glenbard West
Demetra Antonopoulos, SOPH., Buffalo Grove
Demi Antonopoulos, SOPH., Buffalo Grove
Athena Arellanes, JR., Larkin
Josie Canellis, SR., Sandburg (1000 points for career)
Kritika Chitnis, Naperville Central
Katerina Christofalos, SR., Libertyville
Julia Economous, Penn, Northwest Indiana
Christina Eliopoulos, Andrew
Grace Collins, St. Ignatius
Maria Fronimos, SR., Rolling Meadows
Marissa Kalamaris, SR., St. Charles East
Dina Karamagianis FR., Sandburg
Amanda Karavites, SR., Glenbrook South
Lexi Kerstein, SR., Deerfield (All-State first team; 3-time All-State selection; 2000+ career points); Team went downstate to Final 4)
Nikki Kerstein, SOPH., Deerfield (All-State second team; Team went downstate to Final 4)
Lola Kolovos, SOPH, Mather
Christina Korompilas, JR., Glenbrook South
Demetrra Kyriakopoulos, New Trier
Margie Kyriakopoulos, JR., Roselle
Alexis Maridis, JR., St. Charles East
Gia Marousis, JR., St. Viator
Magdalene Mikroulis, FR., Lemont
Diana Nanos, SR., Mundelein
Sophia Palmer, New Trier
Angelina Panos, JR., Lincoln Way Central
Elena Papanicolaou, Addison Trail
Mila Photopoulos, SR., Mundeilein
Tia Poulakidas, SR., Nequa Valley
Frances Poulos, SOPH., Vernon Hill
[CHICAGO, IL] As the NHIBT gets set to tip off it’s 93rd annual tournament March 30-April 2 in Chicago, we take a look at local boys high school hoops. It’s been a solid year for Greeks on the local prep level. NHIBT brackets will be stacked for the foreseeable future.
Did we miss anyone? Let us know on the NHIBT facebook page. We’re up to 24 and counting. We’re mostly familiar with the Chicago-Northwest Indiana region but please do send note of kids outside the NHIBT geographic area
L-R in image: Hadjistamoulou, A. Vassilakis, Sotos, Giannoulias
Alex Georgakas, SR., Prospect
Chris Arvanidis, SOPH., Rolling Meadows
Athan Berchos, SOPH., Andrew
Jacob Diamantos, SR., Downers Grove South
Alex Engro, SR., Loyola Academy
Owen Giannoulias, JR, Glenbrook North
Matt Hatzapoulos, Lockport
Enestis Hadjistamoulou, SOPH., Glenbrook South
Tony Illiopoulos, Sr., Palatine
Ethan Kakavetsis, Rolling Meadows
Evan Kanelos, SR., New Trier. All-Conference selection. Advanced downstate
Dimitri Karamagianis, Sandburg
Harper Krolak, JR., St. Patrick’s H.S.
Panayiotis Malamis, SR., York
Brandyn Michaels, SOPH., St. Viator
John Nikitas, Lake Forest
Joey Pantazis, JR., Niles West
Jonathan Pappas, SR., North Shore Country Day
Panayiotis Sotos, FR., Maine South
Pavlos Stamatopoulos, SR., Niles West
Drew Terpins, JR., Prospect
John Vassilakas, Lockport
Adoni Vassilakis, FR., Marist
Tim Vlahos, SR., Lyons Township
Conte Stamas, Head Coach, Brother Rice
The 2023 NHIBT is scheduled for March 30-April 2 in Chicago. Roster deadlines are fast approaching. The committee can also place “free agents” on various teams. See home page for more information.
Girls varsity report in the coming few days.
[CHICAGO, IL] Veteran basketball coach Conte Stamas was appointed head coach of the boys team at Brother Rice High School in 2022 and this season led the Crusaders to a 29-5 record and a trip through the third round of the state playoffs, before falling 72-67 to Kenwood Academy this past Friday.
On the prep level, Stamas has coached at Hinsdale Central High School, Lyons Township H.S., and Evanston H.S. – all in Illinois. On the collegiate level, Stamas was assistant head coach at Xavier University, and held positions at Stetson University, Thornton Community College, Morton Community College, and Elmhurst College.
Stamas is also a member of the NHIBT Hall of Fame playing for Garfield AHEPA.
Speaking of the NHIBT, the 2023 tournament is slated for March 30-April 2 in Chicago. Roster deadlines are fast approaching.
(01/09/2023; CHICAGO, IL USA) The National Hellenic Invitational Basketball Tournament today released brackets, rules and regulations, and roster and waiver forms for the various divisions of play in the Junior Tournament, to be held January 13-15, 2023 in the greater Chicagoland area.2023_NHIBT_Waiver_Form
For more information contact Frank Korbos 708.691.8500
NHIBT mission: Promote, Support, Preserve Hellenism Through Competition and Fellowship
(CHICAGO, IL, USA; WEDS DEC 28, 2022): The National Hellenic Invitational Basketball Tournament – America’s oldest and biggest Greek basketball tournament – will be hosting its annual Junior Division tournament on the weekend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, January 13 to 15, 2023. Deadline to register is January 4, 2023.
Games will be held at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Palos Hills, St. Nicholas GO Church in Oak Lawn, and other parish locations throughout Chicagoland, as needed. Fee schedules in PDF image.
The Junior Division Tournament has been growing in popularity in recent years and in early 2022 fielded a record number of teams and players. With that, NHIBT officials request parents, parishioners and coaches to begin the process of registration at the earliest their schedules allow.
Inquiries to Frank Korbos 708.691.8500
NHIBT mission: Promote, Support, Preserve Hellenism Through Competition and Fellowship
Congratulations to Sophia Skoubis who officially signed to play D1 Women’s Soccer at the University of Missouri!
When Jimmy Sotos finished his junior year at Bucknell, he knew he had a decision to make. The point guard had one year left to play and would either spend a fourth year with the Bison or put his name in the transfer portal and hope to end his college basketball career with a high-major program.
Having performed well with Bucknell when the team played top competition, Sotos believed he would have an opportunity and decided to take his chances with the portal.
“I knew what decision I wanted to make,” Sotos told Bucknuts. “I knew I wanted to go somewhere where basketball was going to work out, where I have an opportunity to play a big role and help the team win.”
This is not to say Sotos had a poor experience at Bucknell. It was actually quite the opposite.
Growing up in a basketball home — his father played professionally in Greece for one year and his three older brothers all played in college — Sotos was entrenched in the game. While basketball was in his blood, he lacked the height to attract scholarship offers.
Heading into his final AAU season, Sotos — who grew from 5-foot-2 as a freshman to 6-foot-3 finally by his senior year at Conant High School in Elk Grove Village, Illinois — had no offers. Playing well for the Under Armour Association changed that.
“That summer, I got about 20 mid-major offers,” Sotos said. “I got some interest from some high-major schools and they were telling me if I did a year at prep school I could get some offers but I just wanted to get to college.”
At Bucknell, Sotos saw an opportunity to play early on that blended well with what he wanted academically. While he wasn’t a regular starter for the Bison, Sotos played 22.3 minutes per game as a freshman, averaging 4.8 points and two assists.
That season, Bucknell went 25-10 and won both the Patriot League regular season and tournament titles. The Bison made the NCAA Tournament as a No. 14 seed and faced Michigan State in the first round.
Bucknell gave the third-seeded Spartans a scare, eventually falling 82-78, but Sotos, who scored five points and registered two assists in 24 minutes, remembers fondly getting to and playing in the Big Dance for the first time.
“The obvious one would be winning the conference championship as a freshman,” Sotos said of his standout memory with the Bison. “That realization, that lifelong dream of going dancing and going to the tournament is coming true, it was an unreal feeling. I’ll never forget that. That was easily the best experience, most memorable experience I’ve had at Bucknell.”
Sotos sophomore season with the Bison was nearly as successful. As a starter, the point guard increased his averages to 8.2 points, 6.1 assists and 30.5 minutes per game. Bucknell shared the Patriot League regular season title with Colgate, after going 21-10 overall and 13-5 in conference play, but fell to the Raiders in the tournament’s finale meaning no return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
It was Sotos’ junior year where things really changed. Despite averaging 11.5 points and 3.9 assists in 32.1 minutes per game, the Bison struggled, stumbling to a 14-20 record and a seventh place finish in the Patriot League standings.
For Sotos and many of his teammates, it was the first time being on a losing team and the point guard admitted he did not handle it well at first.
“Guys started to get away from each other, we all started to get a little, not selfish but we were all kind of thinking about ourselves too much,” Sotos said. “We definitely would get too low on the losses and probably get too high on the wins as well. It was just a rough year. But looking back on it, I was able to come out of it positively.
“I honestly didn’t deal with it as well as I should have but I definitely matured from it, I learned a lot from it and the way I approach the game now… I kind of look at the game differently, in a more serious light.”
Once the year ended and Sotos made his decision to enter the transfer portal, it was about deciding where he wanted to play next. This time around, the recruitment process was different. Not only did the coronavirus pandemic mean Sotos couldn’t visit schools and meet coaches in person, but he also had interest from a host of programs that desired the point guard’s services.
One of those schools was Ohio State, a program Sotos knew a bit about. Bucknell came to Columbus in December of 2018 in a game Sotos scored 12 points and registered five assists in a narrow 73-71 defeat at Value City Arena.
“I remember that game,” Sotos said of taking on the Buckeyes. “I think we were winning going into halftime and we lost a really close one. We had a shot at the buzzer to win it but it wasn’t a good look. I had a good game that game and that’s why when they reached out, it helped that they had seen me play and I had a good game against them so they knew what I was capable of. And I played against them so I knew their style of play, I knew how Coach coached in-game. So that definitely helped to make this decision, that trust.”
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In his new program, Sotos didn’t care much about seeing the campus. He wanted a place where he could contribute to a successful program that would help him further his basketball career. In addition, Sotos looked for good academics and coaches he could relate to. He found that all at Ohio State.
“When I started talking to (the Ohio State coaches), we hit it off right away,” Sotos said. “I was able to check out their roster, I was able to talk to some guys that I know around the NCAA that know the coaching staff at Ohio State and I’ve heard nothing but great things about them and how they’re men of integrity, how they do their job and how they’re professionals. And when I talked to the coaches, I saw that there would be a role that I could fill potentially and play a huge role in that position and help the team win.”
Sotos committed to Ohio State on April 6. He became the latest in a line of transfer point guards under Chris Holtmann who sat out a season before taking over reins of the Buckeyes. But unlike many transfers around the country, Sotos sees the year of not playing as a good thing.
According to the point guard, the 2020-21 season will allow Sotos to get his body where it needs to be to play in the Big Ten, work on his skills and get acclimated to the Scarlet and Gray’s style of play. “The year to develop was actually one of the reasons that sold me.”
Going forward, it’s all about Ohio State for Sotos. As one of three incoming transfers, including fellow point guard Abel Porter and forward Seth Towns, Sotos then had to get to campus once he was allowed. He had already started to get to know his teammates in group Zoom meetings.
Going forward, life is about building on everything he accomplished and learned in three years at Bucknell and preparing to help the Buckeyes behind the scenes next year and on the court in 2021-22.
“Apart from developing my personal game and just getting better as a basketball player, I want to definitely establish myself as a leader when it’s my year to play,” Sotos said. “I want to become an extension of coach Holtmann when I’m on the court. I think there’s a culture at Ohio State that’s established and I want to carry that and I want to keep that and I want to keep that going. I just want to do my part in my year off and get better, but then when it’s time for me to play, I hope that the work I put in it translates. So hopefully I can be an extension of the coach when I’m on the court and all that.”
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Mrs. Chloe Nicholson. Chloe was the wife of the late Frank Nicholson, NHIBT Hall of Fame basketball coach. She was a Sunday School teacher, cheerleading program director, Scout leader and a mentor to many children who attended St. Demetrios Church in Chicago. She was a second mother to all the Greek basketball players from St. Demetrios in the 60’s and 70’s. Our deepest condolences to her family and to all that loved her and her beautiful spirit. Rest in peace alongside, Coach, and your daughter Pam.
Promote, Support, and Preserve Hellenism through competition and fellowship.
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