Pinelopi Pavlopoulou does not live by the reality college athletics creates for student athletes on campus.
The sentiment that sports are a college athlete’s main-focus is strong. However, athletes who perform well in school and have a high sense of academic achievement are considered the exception.
Pavlopoulou, a junior and WSU women’s basketball starting point guard is an academic standout. In her sophomore year, Pavlopoulou earned a Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention, and she now leads her team with a 3.69 GPA.
The daughter of an ophthalmologist and cardiologist, Pavlopoulou is currently earning her degree in management information systems, she said. She already has a plan in mind for after she graduates.
“I’m hoping to work in a corporation as a data analyst or a systems analyst to help the business collect data and make information out of it,” Pavlopoulou said.
Success for student athletes in the classroom is not always simple. Between practices, games and travel, players are forced to miss numerous lectures, quizzes and exams, many of which cannot be made up.
Pavlopoulou said that communication with professors, especially beforehand, is a key aspect to succeeding in her classes. She said it will never be easy, but each year she progressively gets better at managing time and keeping up academically.
Pavlopoulou is not only a standout in the classroom, but also on the court.
Born in Athens, she competed in Greece’s top division of club basketball and was selected for the U16, U18 and U20 Greek National Teams, according to her biography on the WSU Athletics website.
Pavlopoulou came stateside after being recruited by WSU Head Coach June Daugherty. In her first two seasons, she played in all 62 games, earning minutes as a role player off the bench while adjusting to the changes of American basketball, according to the bio.
“Playing in the States is a lot different. The game is very physical, and the players are very athletic,” Pavlopoulou said. “You have to outsmart your opponent. You can’t just try to out run them because you are not the fastest out there.”
Now, in her junior season, the 5-foot-8-inch guard is playing a pivotal role as a starter, and her upbringing in European basketball is reflected in her play.
Creativity and court awareness are key elements of her game, she said. Basketball in Europe is more mental, and players are forced to read the game rather than attempting to dominate the game physically, Pavlopoulou said.
In Sunday’s contest against California, she brought the ball up court on a fast break while under pressure. At half court, she made a quick dribble move to lose her defender before making a cross-court pass to find a teammate in the corner for an open shot.
She said she is able to see the court in a way that many others cannot.
“I think I read the game and I know when to take a shot or when to pass or sometimes what part of their defense to attack,” Pavlopoulou said. “If I see a mismatch or an advantage on our side, I try to run a play in a specific way that will benefit the team.”
The best facet of her game comes defensively. Pavlopoulou is currently 11th in the Pac-12 in steals per game, despite playing limited minutes at the beginning of the season.
Her court awareness and vision allow her to anticipate passes, while her high energy and tenacity keeps her opponents from being comfortable, Pavlopoulou said.
“Defensively, I try to see where the eyes are looking,” she said. “I try to stay alert and go for the loose balls and passes.”
Pavlopoulou said she does the little things that coaches appreciate. She always works at practice to get better and help her team succeed.