Ed’s Note: Raul Ruscitti is a contributor to Raptors Republic, covering the international game. You can follow him on Twitter.

The second day of the tournament is on the books and it couldn’t be better for Raptors fans. Our main man in the tournament, Jonas Valanciunas, was, as expected, the best player on the floor. His team recovered from a heartbreaking loss to Croatia by destroying South Korea 117–64. Valanciunas was spectacular in just 19 minutes of action. Against a very inferior rival, his game was absolutely perfect. His line was 25 points (11/11 FG and 3/3 FT) 17 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 turnovers in 19 minutes of play. On Saturday, Lithuania will play against Canada in the most important game of the tournament for Raptors fans.

Croatia won again despite playing a close game against Canada, 88-84. Everyone expected a big victory by them but it went down to the last play. The core of Saric, Hezonja and Katic and Barac is very solid and will probably take the team to the last stages of the championship. Dario Saric, a 17-year old 6’8’’ point-forward had a poor shooting game but continued his all around play that makes him one of the most talked about prospects in Europe. His line read 14 Pts (5/16 FG), 13 rebounds and 3 turnovers while playing all about two minutes.

Also for Croatia, Mario Hezonja recovered from a bad first game with a strong performance netting 21pts, 9/12 FG, 3/5 3FG and 3 steals in 25 minutes. Remember he’s born in 1995, so is three years younger than most other players.

In probably the most expected game of the day, USA beat Serbia 80-78 in an exciting and hard-fought game that was decided on the last shot. Aleksandar Cvetkovic (6’3’’, 17 years old), my favorite young point guard in Europe continue with a good scoring touch although he missed the last shot that could have won the game for his team. He was the top scorer of the game finishing with 20 pts on 5/8 shooting.

Latvia stayed undefeated by beating Australia 78-68 in a game that had Australia as a favorite after they demolished Argentina on opening day. After a disastrous opening game, the much-improved Davis Bertans was the second highest scorer with 22 points on 6/9 shooting. He’s a very good shooter but needs to add both weight and strength, and develop into a two-way player before he has a chance of suiting up for his parent club, the Spurs.

The worst “superstar” of the day was clearly Lucas Nogueira, the soon-to-be 19-year old Brazilian 7’0’’ center who had a very poor showing in Brazil’s 79–70 win over Poland. He fouled out in just 22 minutes and finished with just 4 points, he did have 6 rebounds and three blocks, but given his age and the hype surrounding him, it was a very disappointing performance.

At last, after being the surprise of the first day, Sergey Karasev scored just five points in Russia’s blowout win against Tunisia 101–55, in a game that saw the best prospect of Russia, Dimitri Kulagin (6’5’’ guard) lead his team with 18 points on 6/10 FG and 6 rebounds.

As for today, Lithuania-Canada and Argentina-Latvia are the most promising games. Serbia is expected to abuse Egypt and Croatia will probably blowout Korea on the last day of the first round.

By the way, after 2 games, our guy Jonas Valanciunas is the tournament statistical leader at both, points-per-game (22) and rebounds-per-game (15). Not bad for a 5th pick, right?

And here’s a FIBA interview with Jonas after losing to Croatia yesterday:

  • ak

    this kid has a poise, i like that. totally agree when he said your offence can be good or bad but the defence should all be on the same level.

    overall i start to warm up to this guy, i think raps management got very lucky they got him. it’s funny they said same thing at last year’s draft and the one before.

    it sort of starts come all together for this sorry franchise at last.
    so happy i don’t have to root for losers any more and i don’t mean the win/loss totals, but the organization as a whole.

  • TheR3dMenace

    We are all going to be Valanciunas experts by the time the NBA kicks off again. Him and the 2012 NCAA prospects are going to be under Raptors’ fans collective microscopes with no North American pro ball next year…

  • Sim Bhullar

    Good golly gee whiz! I can’t wait to post up Valanciunas down low. Wowzers.

  • Sek99

    Don’t want to be a downer but just want to remind everyone who starts blowing their pants at the sight of this guy’s numbers should remember that a fellow Lithuanian was ‘dominating’ in international play before he came to the Raptors, and we all know how that turned out. That being said, this guy does impress me and seems to be a lot better than I thought. I was thinking this guy was a more ‘finesse’ big like a Pau Gasol type player which, as good as Gasol is, would not work with an already ultra-finesse big in Bargnani. This guy seems to play more like Marc, which is something we need. If he bulks up I’m starting to be sold on the whole ‘C’ of the future business. Hopefully his game will translate into the NBA.  

    • http://twitter.com/mattscottnelson Matt Nelson

      I think it’s a lot like summer league in the sense that doing really well has hardly any correlation to how well a guy will play in the NBA…but playing poorly in summer league is nearly a guarantee he’ll be poor in the NBA.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gerald.flemming Gerald Flemming

      Oh you mean that player who came here and spent the whole season hurt so we actually have no idea how good he could have been…that player?  Yeah…

      • mountio

        Im not sure where the revisionist “LK was hurt all year, we have no idea how good he could have been” sentiment is coming from.
        Will I give him a bit of a break because supposedly he was hurt all year (btw, half the league plays “hurt” .. so thats pretty subjective) .. sure. But, facts are facts .. he couldnt shoot, couldnt defend, looked lost of the dribble. And, we only heard about him being hurt all year once he was out for the year. Not saying it couldnt be true .. but a little suspcious..

        • Bendit

          That is at best a glass half full take on LK’s season. Agreed there were higher hopes re his performance. But to abscribe “suspicion” to his injured status is quite a stretch. Afterall he did have microfracture surgery. That wasnt an actjob was it? By all accounts he performed really well at the Euro games in 2010 and was his team’s leader. He may well have played thru his knee ailments in spite of. Just saying. Lets give him another season shall we? Besides, he just doesnt seem the faking type.   

          • mountio

            Yes, he had microfracture surgery. So did Amare and a bunch of other guys. Does that automatically mean they were hurt their whole season / career prior to having it? Of course LK hurt himself at some point, and is injured now  – there is no dispute there.
            The quesiton is – was he hurt (or how hurt) for the whole season before he hurt himself enough to required surgery? I didnt hear anything opening day or early in the year about how this guy was playing on a broken wheel. I find it interesting that people buy into the “he must have been hurt all year” just because he ended up hurting himself and missing the season. The two are not necessarily realted at all.

            • V.

              he had an chondral defect on his right knee http://www.active-trial.org.uk/activesite/chondraldefects.htm because his articular cartilage was worn out (too many games, workouts, playing for Lithuanian national team) it hurt his joints while moving thats why his production dipped. And  when his knees ar going to be 100procent, i hope hell be able to show what hes really capable of. Plus hes dropped 20pounds during the course of his rehab and that should help his quickness and defense on leagues small forwards

              • mountio

                Thanks for the link.
                Listen – I hope he shows us more than he did in his first season .. Ill be the happiest guy around if he does.
                My point is .. if this is a degenerative thing (ie wore down over time) .. its odd that he would have been fine for Lithuanian team, then all of a sudden injured once he got to the Raps ..
                Im sure if started to bug him more and more and affected his game to some extent, but all Im saying is I dont expect Clark Kent to turn into superman here ..

                • http://www.facebook.com/gerald.flemming Gerald Flemming

                  Revisionist?  No…he was hurt.  It was a well known fact throughout the season corroborated by more than a few sources.  

                  Where the hell are all these Raptors conspiracy theorists coming from?  

                  Yeah and I heard that Colangelo was in the grassy knoll when Kennedy was killed.  

                • mountio

                  Not a conspiracy theorist. All I know are facts.
                  Fact – he killed it playing in Europe, showing a more diverse game than we had seen with denver (everyone excited)
                  Fact – he came to the raps shortly thereafter and didnt live up to the hype, struggling with not only his shot (which he made a living in in Denver), but off the bounce and defensively
                  Fact  – he got injured and was out for the year, at which point it comes out he was playing hurt all year.

                  Somehow from this, people draw the conclusion that we cant put any credence into his performance as a Rap? Im skeptical .. thats all Im saying.

                  Not tryin to hate here .. I hope he comes back stronger than ever .. it would be a huge burst at the Raps weakest position. Im just sayin that even if you buy into the LK from Europe – we are getting that guy plus a microfracture surgery .. so lets keep our hopes realistic ..

        • ak

          oh cmon man, dont gimme the “everyone fights inured” deal. he was more injured than the others if you wanna put it that way.

          i believe given the right circumstances kleiza can give us a grabajosa-esque production.

          • mountio

            See above. Im not writing this guy off .. Im just saying I dont give him a free pass for his performance last year because he (or his people) told us he was hurt all year (only after he had microfracture surgery)

      • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!!!

        Kleiza is a bench rotation combo forward at best yet with the Rap’s he was 1 of 2 preseason guaranteed starters, along with Bargnani, based on his recent FIBA play (inwhich Team USA shut him down).lmfao

        When he eventually comes back from his injury he will be even less than before his injury and will find himself out of the Rap’s rotation as PF is booked solid (as is) while currently projected to start at SF for the Rap’s- JJ,  is a player that is better than Linas and it could get worse for LK especially if the Rap’s draft a SF in the 1st round of the 2012 NBA draft.

        • http://www.facebook.com/gerald.flemming Gerald Flemming

          I don’t think we’ll know what he could have been.  Back from the surgery I agree totally with everything you’ve written.  Bench SF behind Johnson…hopefully comes back tough and stroking that 3 point shot.  Seriously concerned about any kind of lateral quicks on defence.

    • GameBreaker

      Totally different situation than Kleiza.  Injuries, older versus younger, no injuries.  

  • pesterm1

    Jonas Valanciunas is AWESOME!

  • V.

    http://latvia2011.fiba.com/images/web/News/Photos/2011/06/30/_483x332/valenciunas.jpg hes not as skinny as everybody sees him, at the latest weigh in, in adidas eurocamp he weighed  244pounds, not the 231pounds that was listed on nba draft, plus hes adding good, all-around, muscle

  • Balls of Steel

    Cleveland might be beating themselves right now. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Canadian kid but for JV? I dunno.

    • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!!!

      TT > Jonas

      • Balls of Steel


        • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!!!

          Time will tell.

          I would have liked to see TT go up against Jonas in the NBA Summer League as I believe that TT would work him over but hat will hopefully take place next summer.

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/HISQFQ4AGC6OW77MXASZH4A4QI dchoubak

            I’d rather not…I’d rather the Raptor’s pick did better.

      • pesterm1

        mmm hmmmm….. as i roll my eyes at u sir

        • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!!!

          U can roll your eyes, U can stomp your feet- but TT is a player that Jonas just can’t beat!!lol

          Canadian players (not an ex head coach) in the NBA-gotta support and love them!!!

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/HISQFQ4AGC6OW77MXASZH4A4QI dchoubak

            We don’t know that until it actually happens. Let’s not jump to conclusions before we actually know the results…

      • pesterm1

        mmm hmmmm….. as i roll my eyes at u sir

      • http://www.facebook.com/gerald.flemming Gerald Flemming

        Can you imbed a photo of your crystal ball?

  • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!!!

    When it comes to Jonas I Don’t Believe The RR Hype! (Chuck D voice)


    • Balls of Steel

      I’m not sure what you believe. Time to support the Clippers I guess.

      • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!!!

        I already am as that’s what the Rap’s are in a nutshell currently- the Clippers of the East- as is, under BC post Sam.

  • Rpsfan95

    J.O.V.A. = 19 pts (5/6), 9 rbds, 4 blks, 1/1 from 3pt in 14 mins vs Canada

    • ValtheMan

      How many of the people from the Canadian team were drafted for NBA or are playing in any reputable league ?

      • enlightenment

        please refer to u19. Most of these kids haven’t even had the chance to be drafted..

  • Kevin P Presseault

    It is great to see him killing it at FIBA in limited minutes, it almost seems too easy for him which it should be in all honesty.  However, what I like most is where he plays on offense will allow Bargnani to play at around the elbow which he will probably use as a reason for his low rebounding numbers… lol.  I know this may sound ridiculous but perhaps they could be… an international twin towers.  Okay, I am probably stretching here, but it is nice to see that his game does look to compliment Bargnani.  The lockout is probably the best thing for Jonas at this point because it makes the Raps look like genius’ and it will allow him to develop and add the necessary 15 – 20 lbs that will help him in the NBA, while other players may regress without the proper supervision and training (which also worries me about Bargs….) but I think the kids will be alright they seem like gym rats.

    Go Raps Go!

    • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!!!

      I want to see the kid play against rookie & fringe NBA players at the NBA Vegas Summer League before I even start to feel his game.

      Then I want to hear what his Rap’s teammates say about him in practice and so forth I still feel that he will most likely be a rotation player and not a starter in the NBA at Center/PF.

      Btw- Andrea at PF will open up the Rap’s transition defense for opossing teams to exploit it often ie fastbreak lay up/dunk lines, if you thought AB didn’t get back on D  as a center- just wait until you get a load of him as a PF (as if there’s really a difference between PF and C as a big is a big- point blank, semantics).

  • Quirk

    OK, come clean! Which one of you magic markered Groucho Marx eyebrows on Jonas in those pictures?!

  • ReaganH.

    Good article…I can’t wait for Summer League to start either. Then I can make some better sense of this pick. By the way, have you seen how this dude broke down the feelings of Raptor fans toward Jonas? Hilarious!


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