YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR
By Simonas Baranauskas
|Jonas Valanciunas doing what he does best: dunk the ball|
Jonas Valanciunas remained his humble self after being named FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year, showing the delight of being recognised, yet not overemphasising the personal award.
The 19-year-old from Lithuania had a memorable and highly eventful year, which featured Valanciunas leading the Baltic giants to FIBA U19 World Championship gold and racking up the tournament MVP honours on the way, as well as making a successful debut with the Lithuanian senior side at EuroBasket 2011 (check the video feature).
Although Valanciunas keeps adding personal awards to his collection, they don't seem to be having the slightest of impacts on the young player, who has maintained a hard-working and tough-minded attitude, which has accompanied him on the rise to the top.
Fibaeurope.com spoke with the talented prospect about what being named the best young player in the continent means for him and where the player's mind is set for the nearest future.
fibaeurope.com: Jonas, how does it feel to be named the best young player in Europe?
Jonas Valanciunas: It feels really good. It's very satisfying to be chosen as the best young player of the year. It's an honour. Knowing that people believe in you and value your game is a genuinely a great feeling.
fibaeurope.com: Does this achievement stand out from other personal awards in any way?
Valanciunas: I don't really like looking back into what has already been left in the past. The most important thing for me now is to work on the court. Maybe, when I finish my career, it will be nice to go back in time and think about which award is the most special for me. However, if I concentrate on the wrong things right now, it could have a negative impact, so I'm just focused on working on my game and improving every day.
fibaeurope.com: What is number one in your priority list at the moment?
Valanciunas: The only thing I really think about now is my team, Lietuvos Rytas. We're focusing on one each game individually, doing our best to take a victory in every one of them. We have high goals both in Eurocup and the Lithuanian league, both of which we are hoping to win. We are trying, working hard and we'll see how things turn out in the end of the season.
fibaeurope.com: Are you excited about another summer with the national team?
Valanciunas: Yes, I'm definitely looking forward to spending another summer with the guys. Of course, it would be nice to have some rest, but I think there will be just enough time for that after the season ends. I'm excited about the summer and I have already spoken with coach Kemzura about some details. I think it's going to be a great summer.