Coaches, teammates helping Antetokounmpo cope with tragedy

Dayton forward Antetokounmpo back at practice one week after death of father

The Dayton Flyers have rallied around redshirt freshman forward Kostas Antetokounmpo, whose father Charles died on Sept. 30.

Kostas returned to practice Sunday, said coach Anthony Grant on Monday in his first meeting with local media since the start of practice on Sept. 29.

“Obviously (Kostas) had an unfortunate tragedy with his father passing unexpectedly,” Grant said. “I think all things considered he’s got a very strong family, a very strong faith. I think his teammates have tried to reach out to support him. This will be a process for him. It’s a tough deal for a young guy to go through, losing a parent, and obviously his family coming from Greece and now living in Milwaukee. He’s got a great support system there with his family. They want what’s best for him. It was good to have him back. I think the guys embraced him with open arms and welcomed him back. It was good to get him back out there sweating a little bit.”

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Charles Antetokounmpo, 54, suffered a heart attack, according to reports, and died in Milwaukee, where his son Giannis plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis returned to action in an exhibition game Friday. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the family went to shoot basketball on the day his dad died.

“Basketball is a really big part of our family,” Giannis said, “and that’s one of the things that made my dad proud.”

Kostas is the fourth oldest of five brothers, following Francis, Thanasis and Giannis. One brother, Alex, is a sophomore at Dominican High School in Milwaukee.

Back in Dayton, Kostas’ basketball family has helped him cope with his loss. The Flyers held their seventh preseason practice Monday. Sophomore Trey Landers understands better than most what Kostas is going through. His father Robert Landers was shot to death in Trotwood on Dec. 19, 2006. Trey was 8.

“It’s very sad,” Landers said. “I feel like it made us become closer because my father passed away some years back, so I can kind of relate to what he’s going through. It’s tough on him, but I told him, ‘At the end of the day, everything happens for a reason as bad as it sounds.’ I told him, ‘You’ve just got to take it out on the court.’”

Antetokounmpo has not been cleared for full-contact practices. He’s continuing to recover from an offseason knee injury.

“Since he’s a big piece of our team, we’re going to take it slow,” Landers said. “We’re not going to rush him back. He’s just taking it day by day, and when he comes back, it’s going to be nice.”

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