0 of 0

20130926_me_14.mp3?orgId=1&topicId=1055&d=316&p=3&story=226268651&t=progseg&e=226101606&seg=14&ft=nprml&f=226268651

Just a few months ago, most Greeks had never heard of a teenager named Giannis Antetokounmpo.

At 6-foot-9, the baby-faced athlete was the towering star of a minor-league basketball team in an Athens suburb. Born in Greece to a Nigerian soccer player and a high-jumper, he was raised and educated in Athens. He only received his citizenship this May.

And then, on June 27 in New York, NBA commissioner David Stern announced that the Milwaukee Bucks had used the 15th pick in the first round of the NBA draft to select Antetokounmpo, who recently turned 19.

Antetokounmpo, wearing a gray blazer, leapt from the crowd and embraced his 20-year-old brother, Thanassis, who waved a giant blue-and-white Greek flag.

"It's a wonderful feeling," Antetokounmpo later told a TV reporter. "I can't describe how I feel. It's a dream come true."

Greece is not a country where many young people can realize their dreams these days. Nearly two-thirds of Greeks under age 24 are out of work — one of the highest unemployment rates in the developed world, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Prospects are even tougher for the children of immigrants, many of whom are stateless in a society that blames foreigners for its problems.

Antetokounmpo's success has heartened many Greeks desperate for their country to become an incubator of dreams instead of a dead zone of joblessness.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.