|29 June 2009|
Lithuania's junior teams are almost always in the running for medals, but coach Rimvydas Samulenas isn't even thinking about that right now with the U20 European Championship in Rhodes, Greece, still three weeks away.
The Baltic side finished runners-up to Serbia last year in Riga, and six players from that event are in the preliminary squad for this summer.
However, every tournament is different.
"We expect to be among the top eight," Samulenas said to Basketball World News.
"How things will go in the play-offs will depend on many factors and those are difficult to predict now."
Anyone who follows European hoops will know that basketball is the undisputed number one sport in Lithuania, the host nation for EuroBasket 2011.
The country has youth teams competing everywhere this summer.
The Lithuanians will be at the FIBA U19 World Championship Men in New Zealand and there are a couple of players in that under-19 squad, Adomas Drungilas and Donatas Motiejūnas, who are also in the U20 preliminary squad.
"On our team's preliminary list we have two players from that team, but we plan to bring only one player from that team to Greece," Samulenas revealed.
That player competing in New Zealand won't have much time to get find his rhythm with the U20 side.
The FIBA U19 World Championship runs from July 2-12, while Lithuania's first game at the U20 European Championship is on July 16 against Montenegro.
A concern that national team coaches always have is the amount of playing time his charges have gotten with their clubs. In this respect, the Lithuania coach seems to think the U20 players are getting a chance to develop.
"Most of the players debuted in the Lithuanian League this year and they played some minutes," he said. "Other players play in the second division and became leaders of their teams."
Each of those involved hope to graduate to the senior team, but that's easier said than done.
"If we take as an example last year's U20 team," Samulenas said, "most of the players successfully made their debuts with senior clubs. The Lithuanian senior men's team head coach Ramunas Butautas included some of the players into an extended preliminary list. However, I have doubts if they will make it to the final 12."
As for his team's final roster, Samulenas said: "The core of the team is already known. We have doubts concerning a few players. We will know all the answers to our questions after the last training camp which will take place in Lithuania just before the start of the championship in Greece."