COACH of the Lithuanian national men’s basketball team, Jonas Kazlauskas said the pedigree of teams in the group for the Olympic Games does not scare him and that includes Nigeria’s D’ Tigers currently camping in Los Angeles, California, USA.
According to the coach, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Croatia and Nigeria are impressive national teams when it comes to international basketball.
Such opponents in the Group Phase at an Olympics might send a chill down the spine of a coach, but certainly not for him.
“You never get to choose between rivals,” he said. “Our group, all the contestants are very strong, so our first task will be to get to the next stage. I’m very proud of my men that got into the Olympics right away.”
Lithuania had been at every Olympics since 1992. The country has always been a factor. To advance to the final phase, the team will need to claim a top-four finish.
Lithuania booked her place in the Olympics by reaching the final of EuroBasket 2015. The team knocked off Italy in the quarterfinals after overtime and then beat a Serbia side that many had expected to win the tournament.
A testament to how strong Lithuania’s showing was last year in France could be seen by the success of Europe at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs).
Croatia defeated the likes of Greece and Italy at the OQT in Turin, while France overcame the Philippines, New Zealand, Turkey and Canada at the OQT in Manila.
Serbia blew out her opponents in Belgrade. The team defeated Puerto Rico twice, including in the final, and also Angola and the Czech Republic. All three of those OQT winners finished below the Lithuanians at the EuroBasket.
Lithuania, meanwhile, last Sunday whipped the 2015 FIBA America’s championship winners, Venezuela, 84-53, in a friendly at the Siemens Arena in Vilnius.
Adas Juskevicius led the way with 15 points, while Jonas Valanciunas and Marius Grigonis weighed in with 14 and 13, respectively. Lithuania killed Venezuela from the perimeter, drilling 13-of-29 three-pointers.
“We started the game started with good energy and concentration, and this allowed us to set a good tone and get away from the opponents,” Juskevicius said.