Lithuanian basketball team is one of the favourites for a medal in the Rio Olympic Games.
© V.Dranginio nuotr.

Lithuania is ranked second in Europe after Spain and third in the world when the first spot belongs to team USA and the second place belongs to Spain.

Team Lithuania may and should accomplish its first goal and it is to advance to the final four. The Lithuanian squad is one of the youngest and the strongest teams in the Olympic Games.

Team Lithuania will play in group B with the host team Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Croatia and Nigeria. Four of the teams will qualify for the quarterfinals. In group A, the favourite for gold, team USA, will face France, Venezuela, Serbia, China and Australia.

Lithuania and Brazil will open the competitions on August 7 in Carioca Arena 1. The second match on August 9 will be against Nigeria and then against Argentina that might challenge Lithuania. The most interesting and intense match in the group will be held on August 13 when Lithuania will face Spain. This match probably will be the fight for the first spot in the group. Lithuania’s last match in group B will be against Croatia on August 15.

The Lithuanian squad will be guided by 61-year-old coach Jonas Kazlauskas and will be assisted by Darius Maskoliūnas (45) and Gintaras Krapikas (55).

The Lithuanian team:

Point Guards: Only one player in the national squad is a native point guard - Mantas Kalnietis (29, 1.95m). The Lithuanian is playing in the Italian club Olimpia Milano.

Guards: Adas Juškevičius (27, 1.94m) who is playing for the Lithuanian club Lietuvos Rytas and Vaidas Kariniauskas (22, 1.97m) who is playing in the Greek club Kymis B.C. will play in this position. Coach Kazlausas will use mostly the services of Juškevičius who is much more experienced in this position and more used to the pressure than his younger compatriot.

Shooting Guards: This position belongs to Renaldas Seibutis (31, 1.96m). Seibutis has been playing for six years on the national team and has earned the respect from coach Kazlauskas. The Lithuanian star is playing currently for the famous Lithuanian club Žalgiris Kaunas.

Swing Man: 22-year-old Marius Grigonis (1.98) will be used by Kazlauskas as a small forward and as a guard. The Lithuanian, who is going to play next season for the Spanish club Iberostar Tenerife, is considered as one of the future stars in the Lithuanian basketball and national team.

Small Forwards: Mindaugas Kuzminskas (26, 2.05m), who plays for NBA team New Your Knicks, and Jonas Mačiulis (31, 1.98m), who is part of the Spanish elite club Real Madrid, are going to lead the team. Kuzminskas, despite his young age, is considered one of the best in Europe in his position. The new contract in the NBA will give him new perspectives and probably will increase his experience. Mačiulis is also an important part of the squad. His experience and game style might be the key for breaking strong defences such as French one and also might be the key for speed ball movement against teams that like a fast game such as team USA.

Power Forward: This position belongs to 32-year-old Paulius Jankūnas (2.08m) who is playing for Žalgiris Kaunas.

Forward - Center: Only one player in the national squad can play in these two positions, and it is not a surprise for many basketball fans that this man is a son of the legendary Lithuanian basketball star Arvydas Sabonis. The son, Domantas Sabonis (20, 2.11m) who was selected at the 11th peak in the last NBA draft, is one of the future stars in the Lithuanian national team. Sabonis junior will play this season for Oklahoma City Thunder after two years in a college league with Gonzaga.

Centers: There will be three centers in Kazlauskas’ team. All of them are very experienced and highly respected by the coaching team. However, it is expected that the center position will belong to NBA star Jonas Valančiūnas (24, 2.13m) who is playing for the Toronto Raptors. The second center is 31-year-old Antanas Kavaliauskas who is playing for the Lithuanian club Lietuvos Rytas. The third center, and the last member of the national team, is the captain and the eldest player of the squad, 36-year-old Robertas Javtokas. The Lithuanian, who plays for Žalgiris, is playing probably his last Olympics and is not expected to see many game minutes. However, coach Kazlauskas didn’t bring him as a souvenir to Rio Olympics. Kazlauskas will use Javtokas and his experience on the court and also off the court in organizing the game of the centers and of the whole team.

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