|Host City: Kayseri|
|Host City: Istanbul|
|Host City: Ankara|
|5. Puerto Rico||1/4||6|
|6. Cote d'Ivoire||1/4||6|
|Host City: Izmir|
|3. New Zealand||3/2||8|
|#||Name||P||Height||DOB||Place Of Birth||Club|
|12/03/1986||Kaunas, Lithuania||Meridiano Alicante, ACB (ESP)|
|Min||Minutes played||Tot||Total rebounds||BS||Block Shots|
|%||Shooting percentage||PF||Personal fouls||G||Played Games|
Lithuania look to bounce back
After a forgetful performance at the 2009 EuroBasket in Poland, Lithuania will want to show their fans they have something to look forward to before they host the European event in 2011.
Lithuania will be looking to bounce back after a poor showing at EuroBasket 2009 where they won only one game in the whole tournament and barely made it out of the group stages. However, this will all be one burdensome battle against the odds since the team will once again not have the fire-power of stars such as Ramunas Siskauskas, Rimantas Kaukenas and Sarunas Jasikevicius to rely on.
The World Championships in Turkey will in a way, be take-two of the story already witnessed in Poland last year. However, one thing has to be mentioned above all: there have been changes at the helm of the National Team. Not only has Kestutis Kemzura replaced Ramunas Butautas, who had no other option but to step down after the EuroBasket failure, but there’s also no one left in the directing staff apart the scouting guru Donaldas Kairys.
Linas Kleiza will have to take matters into his own hands this time after failing to do so last time around and letting down the whole country of Lithuania. A season with Olympiacos Piraeus in Greece might have helped the former Denver Nugget adapt to European basketball, but the key here might be the fact that he has really discovered himself at the power forward position. Former Lithuania team coach Ramunas Butautas usually played Linas at the three, where he didn’t feel that comfortable with his huge frame and massive strength by European standards.
Kleiza played a crucial role in the march of Olympiacos to the Euroleague final, where the club lost to Spanish powerhouse Barcelona. As well as outshining players such as Josh Childress, Milos Teodosic or Theo Papaloukas, Kleiza also received the Alphonso Ford Trophy, awarded to the top scorer in Europe’s elite competition’s and he was the first Lithuanian ever to receive the accolade.
Lithuania has produced only one world-class playmaker and that, you could say, is a great achievement for a country with a population of just over three million, but whenever Jasikevicius decides to take a summer off, a huge hole opens up in the point guard spot. The “Houston, we have a problem!” scenario is repeating itself after the unsuccessful EuroBasket in Poland.
While the country is still waiting for its next big thing, Mantas Kalnietis will have to do for the time being and will surely have to step up this time. Much was expected from the Zalgiris Kaunas’ player a year ago but the athletic combo guard was kept on the bench by former Lithuania coach Butautas and barely played last summer. The new coach of the National Team Kemzura is willing to give the 23-year-old a well-deserved fresh start as the player has just had his second season in the starting unit of Zalgiris and is expected to have gained a lot of experience and increased his confidence as well. Just keep this in mind, if he’s on court then gear up for some run and gun.
The National Tide will miss three very important big men, who are all playing ball in Euroleague: Ksistof Lavrinovic of Siena Montepaschi and Marijonas Petravicius from Armani Jeans Milano who are not expected to make it to Turkey and will both miss the tournament due to back problems and also Darjus Lavrinovic who wasn’t allowed to play international basketball by his new club Fenerbahce Istanbul. However, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Team captain Robertas Javtokas will fill the void under the boards. The defensive-minded shot-swatting machine is certainly capable of playing defense against just about any center in the world. He had a good season with Khimki Moscow Region averaging 10.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in the Euroleague.
His team-mate in Russia Paulius Jankunas will return to Lithuania’s National Team after being the last one to get cut before last year’s EuroBasket and can supply some offensive game that the team have been lacking.
Martynas Andriuskevicius was brought in to fill the void and his 218 cm body will definitely scare the opponents to some extent. The young player with NBA experience is going to be the back-up for Robertas Javtokas and will have to play with confidence in order for Lithuania to succeed. Andriuskevicius has already proven he’s a legit player after his first season in the Spanish ACB.
Lithuania only made it in the biggest basketball event of the year after getting a wild card and there have been mixed feelings about what the National Team should do. Should they show they be at full strength or introduce some new talents to the team. With Lithuania hosting the FIBA European Championship in 2011, many felt that it was the perfect time to bring in some new blood in to the side.
One of Europe’s most exciting young talents and a definite lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft, Donatas Motiejunas was expected to make his debut in the senior side and try to impress the world with his unbelievable skill-set and versatility for a big man, but was left out in the end.
Lithuanian basketball has always been known to be fast-paced, fun to watch and featuring plenty of three-pointers. Arvydas Macijauskas, Kaukenas and Siskauskas and many other top marksmen will not be able to help in Turkey, but why bother when you’ve got a player like Martynas Gecevicius? This name might sound unfamiliar to you, but you will have to remember it after the FIBA World Championship as he will be your man-to-watch in Europe for the next decade. Some call him the new Macijauskas, others think he will not live up to one of Europe’s best shooters of recent times.
Gecevicius has gone from zero to hero in the past season and led Lietuvos Rytas to successive Lithuanian titles for the first time ever. He surprised the whole of Europe with a bright performance on the continental stage.
Will the talents of Kleiza, Jankunas and Gecevicius be enough to counter the losses of what can now be called the previous generation of Lithuania’s National Team? Probably not for the FIBA World Championships. But looking into the future, it is better for this transition to happen now. Is this being a little too pessimistic? It could sound this way, but in no way will it affect Lithuania’s natural expectations for victories as the whole country is awaiting a podium finish. Just like every other year.