|17 April 2012|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Kestutis Kemzura is spoilt for choice picking the final roster for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.|
Kestutis Kemzura has the national team on his mind.
Being invited to speak at an international Coach Clinic, held during the traditional Albert Schweitzer Tournament, Lithuania's head coach was lecturing on the characteristics of preparing a national team.
With the summer events ahead, he shared some thoughts on his own team.
"The different players have different seasons, but we expect to have all players on board. This will give us coaches a hard time choosing the roster," Kemzura told fibaeurope.com last week in Mannheim.
Now that Lithuania's preliminary squad is announced, he is definitely right.
Kemzura has confirmed a list of 23 candidates for Lithuania's campaign this summer, as the national team tries to qualify for the Olympic basketball tournament.
The preliminary roster includes four newcomers in Rolandas Alijevas, Adas Juskevicius, Zygimantas Janavicius and Antanas Kavaliauskas as well as injury comebackers Linas Kleiza and Jonas Maciulis.
"The injured players are back. Kleiza and Maciulis are two of our most important players and they look forward to join the team again.
"That makes the Lithuanian fans happy and of course, this makes me feel good," Kemzura said.
It is still unclear whether veteran Sarunas Jasikevicius will represent Lithuania in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will be held in Venezuela from 2 to 8 July.
Nonetheless, Kemzura and his coaching staff have a difficult task ahead of them, as only 15 players will be invited to the preparation.
"I wanted to let all these players know that they can be of use to the national team and they can end up being invited.
"We just don't have enough time to test them all before the pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament," Kemzura explained during a press conference in Vilnius.
Hosts Lithuania were one of the main favourites at last year's EuroBasket, but failed to reach the final which would have guaranteed a spot at the Olympic Games in London.
The Lithuanian side were stunned in the Quarter-Finals by F.Y.R. of Macedonia who wrote a Cinderella story of their own by reaching the Semi-Finals.
Lithuania went on to clinch fifth spot and therewith secure a berth in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Youngster Jonas Valanciunas, 2011 FIBA Europe Young Men's Player of the Year, had a great showing in front of the home crowd, averaging 8.4 points and 4.1 rebounds at his first EuroBasket.
He is only one of eleven quality big men on Kemzura's list.
With the likes of Linas Kleiza, Paulius Jankunas, Ksistof Lavrinovic, Darius Songaila and Robertas Javtokas fighting for their spots, the coach is spoilt for choice indeed.
Hard times, just like he expected.
The extended roster is as follows:
Mantas Kalnietis (Zalgiris Kaunas), Sarunas Jasikevicius (Panathinaikos Athens), Rolandas Alijevas (Krasnye Krylia Samara), Adas Juskevicius, (Rudupis Prienai), Zygimantas Janavicius (Zalgiris Kaunas)
Martynas Gecevicius (Olympiacos Piraeus), Rimantas Kaukenas (Montepaschi Siena), Renaldas Seibutis (Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius), Martynas Pocius (Real Madrid), Deividas Dulkys (Florida State Seminoles), Simas Jasaitis (Turk Telekom Ankara), Jonas Maciulis (Baltai Kaunas), Linas Kleiza (Toronto Raptors), Mindaugas Kuzminskas (Zalgiris Kaunas), Paulius Jankunas (Zalgiris Kaunas), Mindaugas Katelynas (Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius), Darius Songaila (Blancos de Rueda), Tadas Klimavicius (Zalgiris Kaunas), Donatas Motiejunas (Asseco Prokom Gdynia), Ksistof Lavrinovic (Montepaschi Siena), Robertas Javtokas (Zalgiris Kaunas), Jonas Valanciunas (Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius), Antanas Kavaliauskas (VEF Riga)