KRASNODAR (Eurocup) - The devoted fans of Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania are going to see a very different team in domestic and European competition this season.
The club's hugely popular, longtime guard Mantas Kalnietis has decided to leave for Russia where he will suit up for Lokomotiv Kuban and play in the Eurocup.
Kalnietis, who is still only 26, is a veteran in the Lithuania national side and should remain a fixture in the team at next year’s EuroBasket and at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain under new coach Jonas Kazlauskas.
In his last appearance at the London Games, a Quarter-Final defeat to Russia, Lithuania’s Kalnietis scored 14 points and handed out nine assists.
He averaged 5.5 points, 4.8 assists and three rebounds at the Olympics.
"We needed to strengthen the position of point guard," Lokomotiv Kuban supremo Andrey Vedishev said.
"Mantas is a versatile player who can play three positions.
"This young but very experienced basketball player is a major figure in the Lithuanian national team who competed in the World Championship and the national championship.
"He's been excellent for Zalgiris and played for many years in the Euroleague.
"Mantas will have plenty of time to adapt to the team and show an excellent game."
Former CSKA Moscow and UNICS Kazan coach Evgeny Pashutin, Russia's starting point guard at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, is now holding the reins of Lokomotiv.
Kalnietis is not the only Lithuanian at Lokomotiv, with fellow national team player Simas Jasaitis also on the books of the club.