A beast was unleashed yesterday in the French city of Metz. Don’t be mistaking – Jonas Valančiūnas was impressive throughout the whole U18 European Championships, but his performance against the hosts was something truly amazing and somewhat out of this planet. NBA scouts, take note – this guy has a bright future waiting for him. 37 points and 19 rebounds isn’t everyday stuff, now add a dominating defensive effort with 4 blocks and you’ve got all-star material. If he had a decent point guard around, the young talent would see his numbers rocket even more.
A great talent that he is
Valančiūnas was unstoppable around the rim offensively, just give him the ball and he’ll deliver. It didn’t matter whether the French applied double, triple or even quadruple defense on the youngster – Jonas would either make a nice jump hook, battle his way through and finish above the rim, get fouled or dish the ball to an open teammate. Having improved his free throw percentage greatly, Valančiūnas is even more difficult to contain. If Jonas can improve his range and be able to confidently make a mid-range jumper once in a while that would make him even more dangerous. And even if he doesn’t, the young chap will be a superstar one day. Valančiūnas’ long hands help him a lot both in getting his shot off in the forest of hands and securing the boards. And boy is he an energy guy – you can just sense how he wants to win, the effort put into the game is one of the highest I’ve seen. Great offensive players aren’t always good on defense, Jonas is – his long hands should scare anyone going to the rim. There have always been comparisons between players that are current stars and all time greats – Michael Jordan of Turkey, Baltic Pippen, Baby Shaq… If Valančiūnas can increase his strength, by gaining more muscle without losing too much of his speed and mobility, it would be strange if he wouldn’t be called the Lithuanian Superman with a better free throw percentage and less athleticism. And only to add to that, Dwight is his favourite player.
A future in Vilnius
The rising star signed a 5 year contract with Lietuvos Rytas last year and moved to Vilnius to play for the secondary squad Perlas at the age of 16. You’d think that a young lad like him would have trouble playing against physically stronger men than him in NKL. And you’d be wrong – from the first match on he was a double-double machine, averaging 14,6 points and 11,1 rebounds in the regular season, only to see his results drop slightly in the playoffs. Rytas’ manager Jonas Vainauskas has mentioned that the player from a north-eastern Lithuanian city of Utena should join the main roster after this year together with another talented big man Tautvydas Šležas. I wonder if Valančiūnas’ summer performance has changed his mind, but let’s be honest at this point in his career he needs to play as much as possible and sitting on the bench wouldn’t help much. If this guy keeps improving at the current rate, he is likely to become a dominant center in men basketball in no time.