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Sarunas Jasikevicius, Lithuania <
IBN Notes: What pressure? Everyone wants to know how Sarunas Jasikevicius will translate in the NBA game this season after being sought out and signed by Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers, as if the NBA is the only gauge. Saras certainly has his naysayers, many of which wonder out-loud how an undrafted above-average NCAA point guard could be such a diamond in the rough. More an insult to the international game than true research. After leading his teams to Euroleague titles and leading Lithuania over the US in the Olympics, it's hard to believe that there are so many detractors.
Name: Sarunas Jasikevicius
Position: Point Guard
Nickname: Saras, Runi (Maryland)
Origin: Kaunas, Lithuania
Schools: Quarryville (Pa.) Solanco, University of Maryland
Languages: Lithuanian, English
Website: Jasikevicius.com & InterBasket
Teams (jersey): Lithuanian National Team (4), University Of Maryland (13), Lietuvos Rytas (13), Olimpia Ljubljana, Indiana Pacers (3), Golden State Warriors.
IBN Facts: Was named to the 2003 Eurobasket All-Tournament Team which included NBA all-star Andrei Kirilenko of Russia, and rising stars Tony Parker of France, and Pau Gasol of Spain
|Sarunas Jasikevicius Links From our forum: Jasikevicius Traded to Golden State, The Saras photo thread!, Sarunas Jasikevicius to the NBA? Article: see below|
Jasikevicius Has Continental Flair, Ex-Terp One of Europe's Best Guards By Tim Warren Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, September 14, 2003;
STOCKHOLM, Sept. 13 -- Sarunas Jasikevicius left Maryland in 1998 a solid wing player, known for his shooting and intelligent play. But there was no chance he was going to play in the NBA, so he went back to his native Lithuania and tried his luck at club ball in Europe.
"My goal was always to play professionally, if not in the NBA then somewhere else," he said recently. "I just wanted to play."
Jasikevicius remade himself into a point guard, becoming one of the best at his position in Europe, and in May he led Barcelona to the European club championship.
He also has played sensationally in the European team championship here, perhaps the biggest reason Lithuania has knocked off one big-name opponent after another in reaching Sunday's final.
Today it was France, 74-70, in a tense game that wasn't decided until the final moments. Jasikevicius was matched up against France's sterling point guard, Tony Parker, a rising star with the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. Jasikevicius more than held his own, finishing with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.
As thousands of exuberant Lithuanian fans rejoiced in their basketball-mad country's clinching of an Olympic berth in Athens next year, and the chance to win the Euro championship for the first time since 1939, Jasikevicius was accepting an award as the outstanding player of the game.
Sunday, he will face another outstanding guard,
Juan Carlos Navarro, the second-round draft pick of the Wizards in 2002, who scored 23 points to lead Spain over underdog Italy, 81-79. Spain also has clinched a trip to Athens; the last European bid will go to the winner of the France-Italy matchup for third place, played before the final.
At Maryland, the 6-foot-4 Jasikevicius was an effective though hardly spectacular player. Here, it's been a completely different story. Entering today's game, he was averaging 15 points and a tournament-high 8.3 assists, and he had only four turnovers to go with his 33 assists.
But statistics don't convey the brilliance with which he directs his team, mixing basic-but-effective passes with no-look feeds in traffic that startle even his coaches. He brought down the house in the first half today with a hard pass off the dribble from the top of the key to a cutting teammate, who dunked easily.
"He's a unique player," said Lithuanian Coach Antanas Sireila, shaking his head, after today's game. "He's a very creative player. Sometimes he doesn't do what a coach expects his player to do, but he is so creative we will just sit back and watch."
Jasikevicius's shooting was off today (3 for 10 from the field), due mostly to tight pressure from Parker. But in the quarterfinals against Serbia and Montenegro and its NBA point guard,
Marko Jaric of the Los Angeles Clippers, he scored 18 points in the first half and finished with 21 points and 11 assists.
"He's the leader on the floor -- he's always talking to his teammates," Parker said before today's game. "He's a great shooter and a very good passer. He's perfect for Europe. Could he play in the NBA? There might be some questions about his defense, but he runs a team pretty good."
Jasikevicius said he hasn't ruled out trying the NBA, but he is 27 and quite comfortable playing in Europe. He and Navarro formed perhaps Europe's top back court while at Barcelona, but Jasikevicius has a new team now: He will head off to Maccabi Tel Aviv, another European powerhouse, when this championship is over.
"There's a lot about the European style of ball I like," he acknowledged. "And a lot of Europeans have tried the NBA dream and found it is a myth. European ball is getting closer to the level of the NBA, anyway. I don't feel I have to play there to prove myself as a player."
Sarunas Jasikevicius, after ending the season with Maccabi and visiting Barcelona (where his new house is being built) and London (where he met with Zydrunas Ilgauskas) for some days, is now in Lithuania (the main goal here being participation in the wedding of Rimantas Kaukenas). Here's his interview to "Kauno Diena" daily:
Sarunas, how was your time in London with Ilgauskas?
We were there for a short time only. The only thing which we managed to do was watch Wimbledon tennis tournament. We were darting from one court to another in order to see as much action as possible - big fun.
Did you follow men's or women's tennis mostly?
Both of them - I have acquaintances in both cases. Concerning women's tournament, I was supporting the ones who were more beautiful. ( ... lauighs ... )
Did Ilgauskas get to like tennis? We had told previously that he'd be in Wimbledon only to keep you company.
Very much - he got really crazy about it. Also, he was impressed by London itself.
Maybe the situation is getting clearer, concerning your next season's team?
Yes, there are talks with various clubs. But I can't tell anything specific at this point - too soon.
Is there any truth to the reports that you've signed some kind of agreement with Barcelona?
Where is your look directed now - more to Europe, or to America?
NBA attracts me more now. However, it's necessary to think about variants in Europe as well - especially considering the fact, that those proposals are not bad at all. Overall, I would prefer the NBA. If a strong team proposes good conditions, I'm game to go. Most importantly, it has to be team which can win something, and I want to play a significant part in their game. Although, of course, no one will write the playing time into the contract, of course - all will depend on myself. If you play good, you get playing time, if you play bad - you sit on the bench.
Maybe there's s slight possibility of you and Ilgauskas being in the same team?
There are some small chances. However, both of us have to do what is best for us. We talked about it in recent days, joked that we'd probably grind each other to craziness, but it would be a great experience.
Your agent has told that an NBA team will have to propose 10 million dollars over three years in order to get you.
That's his job - the agent tries to get as good a contract as possible. My job is to play. If he succeeds to get me such a contract - great. Also, if you arrive to the NBA with a solid contract in your pocket, you'll be looked at in a different way, than the one who comes for the minimum. Moreover, I'd like to play in a good franchise, with a good organisation, one which takes care of its players. In such teams, the biggest playing time is given to the players who deserve it, who are better and help the team win.
Can you tell how many NBA teams are interested in you?
No, don't think it's 30! There's 5-6 clubs with which we talk.
Did you follow the NBA finals series?
No. Someone tells me the result of a game, that's all the information I have. I heard the Pistons tied the series, but I guess the Spurs should prevail in the end.
Were the working loads not too big for your organism?
This season appeared somewhat lighter to me in this respect. Maybe it's because of the fact, that the Israeli league was very weak this time. The difference between our team and Hapoel TA was huge. We had the luxury of concentrating only on Euroleague games.
In Europe, you've won all the possible trophies. Are you still hungry for victories?
Indeed, I feel I lack of motivation to battle in Europe. It can return after some rest, or maybe thanks to some new challenges. It's very interesting to play in the Euroleague, but I'd like to test myself in the NBA. This would be the fulfilling of my dreams and the last thing I need in my career.
When will you decide on your participation in Eurobasket-2005?
I need to sign my contract first. A lot will depend, which whom I sign it. The club's opinion will be important. Overall, getting some rest would be good. I haven't taken the final decision, but I'm leaning towards getting some rest. I'd like to put everything clear as soon as possible and not to play this game with the media. It's good that the lockout was avoided, so that a new contract can be signed sooner rather than later. It'll be clear then - either I'm training hard, or I'm lying on the beach.
Didn't other NT members try to persuade you to join the team?
No, no one approached me with that.
In recent weeks, quite a few of Lithuanian basketbalers started their married lives. You're going to stay alone soon - the most wanted groom in Lithuania.
( ... laughs ... ) ... I would like to get married as well, believe me. But it's still some time away. No one takes me.
thanks to Maurius123 for the translation!