VILNIUS (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) – Sarunas Jasikevicius decided to suit up for Lithuania for another summer, with hopes of qualifying to London 2012, which would make it the fourth Olympic Games in a row for the 36-year-old guard.
The player was included in the 19-man shortlist, which was announced by the national team’s coach Kestutis Kemzura on Tuesday morning in Vilnius.
“Sarunas is ready to come and help the team. I didn’t need to persuade him. I just told him that he would be useful and Sarunas understands that it is his last chance to get into the Olympics. His only doubt was whether his body could take the strain,” Kemzura said in the press conference.
The shortlist does not include Ksistof Lavrinovic from Montepaschi Siena and Martynas Gecevicius, who just recently won the Euroleague title with Olympiacos Piraeus.
“Many good players didn’t make the list. It’s not only Gecevicius or the Lavrinovic twins that are missing. It was my choice and that is the vision I have of the team,” the coach explained.
According to Kemzura, a number of players will join the camp after the domestic championships finish in the countries they are playing. Rimantas Kaukenas, Jonas Maciulis, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Martynas Pocius are in the list, which could potentially arrive later.
The doctors also advised to give some extra rest time to Robertas Javtokas, who played a big role in Zalgiris dominating Lietuvos Rytas in the LKL Finals.
“I was thinking of inviting 15 players to the first training camp, but because the seasons are so long in Italy, Spain and Greece, there will only be 13 players,” Kemzura said.
Despite some good news about Jasikevicius, some sorrow was gulped as well, as Donatas Motiejunas, who looked set to make a debut in the national team after two years of not making the roster, will most likely miss this summer, with chance to see him in the national squad at a minimal.
The 21-year old big man has a contract with Benetton Treviso, but has plans to move to the NBA. However, he would only be able to sign a deal with the Houston Rockets from 1 July.
“I spoke a lot with Donatas, he really wants to play, but hasn’t signed a contract yet. He would be risking his NBA contract in case of an injury. He told me that he could only come on 2 July, but that would literally be the day before the Olympic Qualifying Tournament starts,” Kemzura told reporters.
“I told him to be ready just in case, but there’s no hiding it – if we were to make it to the Olympics, it wouldn’t be fair to cut any of the players and include Motiejunas instead.”
Mindaugas Balciunas, the general secretary of the Lithuanian Baskebtall Federation (LKF), explained that the situation is quite difficult and that there was not much likelihood to see Motiejunas in the national team.
“There’s nothing simpler than insuring an NBA contract, however nobody wants to take the risk of insuring a potential contract. Meanwhile, Jonas Valanciunas already has a contract with the Toronto Raptors and will be ready to help the team,” Balciunas explained.
Lithuanian preliminary squad for FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament: Tomas Delininkaitis, Deividas Dulkys, Paulius Jankunas, Simas Jasaitis, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Robertas Javtokas, Adas Juskevicius, Mantas Kalnietis, Rimantas Kaukenas, Antanas Kavaliauskas, Linas Kleiza, Tadas Klimavicius, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Jonas Maciulis, Donatas Motiejunas, Martynas Pocius, Renaldas Seibutis, Darius Songaila, Jonas Valanciunas.