Šaras is back! Back in Vilnius, the city that watched him take the first steps in professional basketball. Back in the same club, wearing the black, white and red of Lietuvos Rytas once again. A living legend not only for each and every Lithuanian, but also to true basketball lovers around the world, Šarūnas Jasikevičius is back in business! Back to what he’s known for doing best – playing hoops!
An impressive list of titles that Jasikevičius has won on the court would take a while to name, but it’s not silverware that matters most in the case with Rytas. The team was in a desperate need of a charismatic leader, a guy with authority…
“Since I came, this was the game with the biggest unity inside of the team. It would be unfair to say that Jasikevičius brought unity to the team, but the respect for him definitely had an impact,” said Lietuvos Rytas’ head coach Aleksandr Trifunović after the win against Cibona.
Despite arriving in Vilnius only the day before the game, Šarūnas Jasikevičius provided a morale boost for the whole team, which had been on the brink of total collapse after losing the first four matches in Euroleague this season.
It’s a well-known fact now that Jasikevičius was on the brink of joining the Vilnius side after the starting point guard Jerry Johnson fell out of rotation after suffering an Achilles injury. However, the negotiations broke down as the player was still waiting for a call from a bigger club. There was none. At least no legit ones. Nothing went through.
“I made a mistake by not joining Rytas earlier and waiting for something else instead,” Jasikevičius admitted in a crowded press-conference after his first practice in Vilnius.
Khalid El-Amin was then signed in hope of a brighter future. The American guard brought a positive impact into the Lietuvos Rytas’ game, but frankly speaking it just wasn’t enough, it just wasn’t what Rytas needed.
The team from Vilnius was in dire need of everything that defines Jasikevičius as a player – a winner’s mentality, emotion, devotion, the love for the game…
There’s no hiding that the player isn’t in top-notch form. Far from that. Jasikevičius has spent the last month or so practicing with Peristeri Athens, but he’s open to admit that he’ll need time. Unfortunately, Lietuvos Rytas doesn’t have any time whatsoever after a sluggish start in Euroleague. There’s a lot of catching up to be done.
For youngsters like Martynas Gecevičius and Jonas Valančiūnas – arguably two of the best players for Rytas this season – playing along Jasikevičius could be called a dream coming true, but from the serious side of things having a player with the aura of Šaras in the team will most definitely take some pressure off the two rising stars.
From now on, Rytas is fighting for survival in Euroleague. Every week will be a battle to stay afloat. The huge 28-point victory against Cibona could very well be a all-too-sweet mirage with the Croatian club in a deep financial crisis, but the Lithuanian side has a glimmer of hope now and the Golden Boy, who has brought success with him wherever he has gone, is finally wearing the old colors.
Notes: Back in 1998-99 season, when Jasikevičius played in Vilnius, he averaged 18.0 points and 5.4 assists for the newly established Lietuvos Rytas side, who took the silver medals in Lithuania that year. Šaras recorded a season-high 12 assists in one of the Lithuanian league games. Jasikevičius’ new jersey number will be 22 – the birth day of his daughter – as his prefered 13 was already occupied by Martynas Gecevičius.