I might be running a bit late with this, but want to present you with a preview I did for this Lithuanian League (LKL) season, which is already well under way. All of this was published in a very nice an informative magazine by BasketMe – check it out! Oh, I do have to tell you, it’s in Spanish so if you know the language, that might come in handy.
You can find all of this in a side tab by clicking on ‘LKL Preview 2010/11‘ in the Menu. Should be there until the end of the season if you need it for some reason. You can also take a look at the ‘Lithuanian Club Rankings‘ – a work still in progress and I promise that there’ll be more on this with time. Anyway, turn on your patience and try to enjoy the text below!
Just click to read more as this one’s kinda long and wouldn’t look good in the homepage. Anyway…
The team that’s forever third in the Lithuanian league defended the bronze medals last year. Many thought that last year’s team featuring such players as Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Arvydas Šikšnius and Deivydas Gailius was capable of troubling one of the two Lithuanian basketball superpowers in the domestic league only to be swept by Žalgiris Kaunas in the semifinal of LKL. As it might prove, the chance might turn out to be gone as the three key players found new destinations for the new season – Kuzminskas joined Žalgiris, Šikšnius strengthened Lietuvos Rytas bench while Gailius flew off to search for luck in Italy.
This year’s Šiauliai might have to cope with the problem of every rebuilding team – lack of experience and teamwork, which will still require new bonds to be built and the only solution here is time. That might be highlighted by the fact that last year’s time was one united bunch – there was a great atmosphere in the club.
And that might only further highlight the tough transition period for Šiauliai in the beginning of this season. However, the club has taken measures to do everything at their disposal to soften the landing for a club operating with the third-largest but still limited budget in Lithuanian basketball.
The key addition of the summer was definitely American point guard Ricky Harris, who has come to Lithuania after a great career in the NCAA with the Massachusetts University. The back-court will be further strengthened by Darius Gvezdauskas, the player, who was instrumental to Nevėžis Kėdainiai game last year.
Šiauliai took another interesting step looking into the future by signing some Eastern European talents – Ukrainian big man Roman Gumeniuk, the Belarus U-18 leader Vitaly Liutych, who signed a five year deal and will be sent to develop in the club’s farm team together with Ukraine’s top young point guard Klym Artomonov.
As good as that might seem, Šiauliai are expected to meet some challengers for the third place position this season from other up and coming teams such as Neptūnas Klaipėda.
The side from Utena surprised the Lithuanian basketball world by finishing fourth in their first season of top tier basketball. One of the keys to last year’s success was the new winds in the team’s management brought in by the well-travelled veteran Žydrūnas Urbonas. The player is still helping Juventus on the court as well as being the president of the club and an assistant coach on the sideline.
Utena’s team is playing in a newly built arena, which is usually vastly crowded and the team has found a place in local sponsor’s hearts managing to build a € 300,000 budget – usually enough to compete in the upper part of the table.
Juventus will be aiming to repeat their fourth place finish and have added strength to the roster by signing former Lithuanian national team point guard Marius Prekevičius and an extremely dangerous forward in Aurimas Kieža.
However, the two rookies on the roster will have a hard task of replacing the core of last year’s team as Tomas Gaidamavičius, Darius Pakamanis, Jonas Elvikis and Paulius Morkeliūnas have all found other clubs for the new season.
The club from the third biggest Lithuanian city, Klaipėda, has been the darling of the summer, going through a huge metamorphosis during the summer. The old and out-of-date was replaced by the innovative and open-minded when it came to the management of Neptūnas. And the first steps showed in an instant as the new personnel started working with the media and fans online.
One could name it as a new start – the team presented a new logo to seal the symbolic change. The difference was visible right away after looking at the summer changes in the club. Right out of the gates, Neptūnas brought back Martynas Mažeika, who played in the Greek ESAKE for AEK Athens last season, added former Martynas Pocius’ teammate at Duke – David McClure as well as Luke Bonner, who’s brother Matt is playing for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA.
It is thought that the club is going to aim at the top four and be a legitimate opponent to Šiauliai in the battle for the bronze medals.
Techasas had a relatively good season last year finishing sixth in LKL. It has to be said that the sixth place was one of the biggest achievements in the club’s history. The side from Panevėžys will be hoping to repeat such a result, but their first goal is to make the playoffs.
The club decided to take a different route from this season and is planning to develop young players and rely on youth to reach the set goals. Only three players in the team are over 25 year old, so this might be a fun side to watch in terms of athleticism and speed.
Techasas wasn’t the most active club in the summer market, but didn’t leave without making at least a small impact. The most important news coming out of the off-season was that Panevėžys managed to re-sign with their coach Gintaras Leonavičius, who was one of the main factors for the team’s success last year.
Among players, joining the side was the name of the Nikolaz Vasakidze, a Georgian player, who has mastered the intricacies of the Lithuanian language and can speak fluently, usually not the case with foreigners. However, the point guard got sacked within the first week of the season.
The green and white colors are not the only thing in common between Rūdupis and Žalgiris Kaunas. The Lithuanian giants will be there to take the credit if Rūdupis has a successful season having lent three players that will play the leading roles in the Prienai side – Adas Juškevičius, Vytenis Lipkevičius and Povilas Butkevičius.
However, the average age of the team will be only 22 years old and that might be a stick in the wheels for Rūdupis. That aside, the team will still be aiming at fairly high goals – to make so place for themselves between the four strongest teams of the country. The team is capable of achieving great things – maybe even stealing the bronze medals from Šiauliai, but they’ll need to play consistant early in the regular season to avoid stronger opponents in the playoffs.
Perlas is Lietuvos Rytas’ farm team. That should be enough information for most as the side will be directly influenced by the main team – the mid-season changes are more likely inevitable than just possible.
The team has set a goal to reach the semifinal and with so many teams aiming so high, there’s no way to fit them all in the Top 4. Perlas, it has to be said, is one of the most likely candidates to miss out. Despite having talented youngsters such as Eimantas Bendžius, Paulius Dambrauskas and Giedrius Staniulis this team still needs to improve greatly to succeed.
Perlas kept its core from last year and added a front-court presence in Artūras Valeika and Evaldas Lengvinas. However, the biggest signing of the summer has definitely to do with Dovydas Redikas joining the team. One of Lithuanian U18 team leaders, who won the gold medal in the European Championship of his age group has linked his future to Lietuvos Rytas and will play in Perlas for the time being to get more court-time and just to develop faster in general.
The other team from the capital – that’s how the Sakalai have been known for the biggest part of their existence. However, the side will not be playing their home games in Vilnius anymore moving to a small town of Šakiai.
There were a lot of changes in the team’s roster during the off-season, but the most interesting additions were Augustas Pečiukevičius and Mantas Kadzevičius –two talented guards on loan from Žalgiris Kaunas.
Sakalai are aiming at a play-off spot and have gathered a budget of around € 200,000 – that’s what they’re usually capable of working with a budget like this in the hunt for the Top 8.
Alytus has run out of momentum which they gained two years finishing fourth in LKL. From then on it all went downwards and will only be looking to avoid relegation. The usual cause of a case like this is money and Alytus is no exception – after the money stopped flowing in, the results dipped.
There haven’t been any interesting signings in the summer and the club is still looking for additions in the power forward and center positions. After these transactions are completed, we’ll be able to judge if it’s realistic for this team to avoid relegation.
After not making the playoffs last year, Nevėžis will be looking to bounce back from a poor season and has taken real actions despite keeping last year’s budget of € 200,000. The minimal goal is to make the eight strongest teams, but this team is capable of much more if they find some good bench players in the market.
The club from Kėdainiai has got some very nice talent – former Žalgiris player Rolandas Alijevas, last year’s regular season MVP Egidijus Dimša, ex-Lietuvos Rytas player Lukas Brazdauskis and Slovenian center Blaz Cresnar will be key to Nevėžis success.
Just like the case with Lietuvos Rytas farm team Perlas, Kaunas will be Žalgiris’s second team. The core of the team is very young and will rely on players hoping to make the main team some day. Among those are the names are Povilas Čukinas, Šarūnas Vasiliauskas, Giedrius Kurtinaitis (the son of coach Kurtinaitis) and two European U18 Championship gold medal winners – Renaldas Simanavičius and Rolandas Jakštas.
Making the playoffs will be the team’s priority and, to be fair, a very realistic goal. Despite claiming that the budget of the team is only around € 175,000, it’s clear that Žalgiris and owner Vladimir Romanov will be paying some salaries from their own pocket. It should be mentioned that Darius Maskoliūnas, who started the season as the head coach of this club, moved to Lietuvos Rytas as an assistant just after a couple of games.
The sole LKL debutants this year will be trying to make a splash. At least a small one. Their goal is to make the playoffs and that was in their mind when building the roster. If everything had gone according to plan, the team would have had to play in a promotion/delegation game, but Aisčiai Kaunas decided not to play and be relegated without a fight leaving the NKL (second tier of Lithuanian basketball) champions with an LKL place in their hands.
The club signed Americans Eugene Harris and Joseph Zeller at the start of the season, but both of them are already gone and were replaced Chris Lowe and Laurynas Mikalauskas. A couple of talented Lithuanians were also inked during the summer – Raimundas Danys, Vilmantas Dilys and Mantas Mockevičus to mention a couple.