|Giedre Paugaite averaged 7.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in the EuroBasket Women qualifiers last summer|
By Paul Nilsen
Born in the nineties and yet already on the verge of a third EuroBasket Women, Giedre Paugaite is hoping she can make an impact with Lithuania this summer after two relatively low-key tournaments so far.
Thrust onto the roster in Latvia during 2009 and also included in the team which took to the floor in Poland two years later, Paugaite hasn't had sufficient opportunities to really showcase her skills - the kind of which have been on display for USO Mondeville all season in the EuroLeague Women.
Reflecting on her first two trips to previous competitions, Paugaite admits she didn't get much playing time, but is adamant she was able to use the experiences to her advantage and learned to be patient.
"I didn't play a lot in the first and second EuroBasket Women tournaments," recalled Paugaite.
"But from the first one, I remember that I was just watching from the bench and thinking about how much I still had to grow up as a player.
"And then in Poland, after a good season in EuroLeague Women, I really wanted to play, but we still had more experienced players in the team so I didn't get a lot of playing time there either."
Not only is Paugaite banking on having more of an influence when she steps out in France, she believes Lithuania have the potential to make improvements, although the 22-year-old admitted this is a transitional phase for the team.
"The group looks better this time," she said.
"But, you never know in women's basketball and it depends on which players will join the team. Some teams also have an exchange of generation just like our team.
"We should just work really hard together, because we don't have big stars or leaders. We are still young and we have an extra energy and motivation, so we need to use it very well."
Perhaps the progress of Lithuania will rest largely on whether the irrepressible Sandra Linkeviciene decides to return to the sport. For in the wake of last summer's successful qualification, she decided not to sign for a club team and has taken a sabbatical.
"Sandra is a great player and there are not a lot of players like her with such big experience and I hope she will return," acknowledged Paugaite.
Having played all eight games in EuroLeague Women this season with USO Mondeville and having averaged over 25 minutes per game, Paugaite has much more experience under her own belt now. She has been part of a team which has given themselves an opportunity of making the post season.
|Paugaite made her EuroLeague Women debut with TEO Vilnius during the 2009-10 season|
However, she doesn't believe her exploits in French basketball will have much of a sway when she prepares to pull on a Lithuanian vest.
"It's not a big difference for me that the tournament is in France, except for the fact that an already strong French team will be even stronger at home.
"Living in France means a lot of travelling and it's pretty rainy, but I really like the country and culture over here," smiled the forward.
"The EuroLeague Women season is still not quite over with Mondeville and I know we can make some more surprises in it.
"We have a great new player in Noel Kuin, so we will work hard and believe in it."
Off the court, Paugaite dates her compatriot Martynas Jurgilas, a sprint champion who previously set Lithuanian national records in the 100 and 200 metre events.
And, dating another athlete means plenty of interesting conversations.
"My relationship with Martynas is really nice and serious," she explained.
"Everything works out perfect, since it's interesting to know how athletes are preparing themselves mentally for competitions and how professional they are.
"He is also working with the team as a strength and conditioning coach, so that helps me too."