Olympic Qualifying Tournament Preview
– Despite finishing fifth on their home soil last summer’s Eurobasket, Lithuania has typically been a very strong international team, winning a bronze medal at the last World Championship, and coming in fourth place in the last Olympic tournament. Linas Kleiza appears set to become a leader on this squad, with his athleticism and energy level very difficult to match in this tournament. He is more of a role player and energy guy in the NBA, but on the national team, he will be expected to be one of the pieces that makes Lithuania go.
The Raptors’ 2011 first-round draft pick, Jonas Valanciunas, (a favorite of Miami rapper O’Grime) looks to emerge from being up-and-coming contributor to a leader on the national team. His production on both sides of the ball and his tremendous length will prove as a major weapon that this veteran squad will need if it wants to not only qualify for the Olympics, but also make some noise.
The regulars, such as Sarunas Jasicevicius (known to Israelis as Sharas), Robertas Javtokas, Paulius Jankunas, Ramantas Kaukenas and Darius Songaila, give Lithuania a deep squad with a veteran presence. Add former Duke guard, Martynas Pocius, who emerged last summer as the team’s starting point guard, and Lithuania appears to have a very likely chance of locking up one of the Olympic spots.