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Jonas VALANCIUNAS (Lithuania)
LTU - No doubt, Jonas is ready

VILNIUS (EuroBasket 2011) - Lithuania connected their fans to the past, present and future on Wednesday night in the remarkable, heart-stopping atmosphere of the Siemens Arena in Vilnius.

In the team's 100-90 win over Serbia at EuroBasket 2011, 35-year-old point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius came off the bench and rolled back the years with a gutsy display that made people remember his heroics of EuroBasket 2003 when he was the MVP, and the 2004 Olympics when he led Lithuania to an upset of the United States in the Preliminary Round.

On Wednesday, Jasikevicius opened the door for Jonas Valanciunas, the MVP of the FIBA U19 World Championship, to big-time hoops.

Any doubts at all about the readiness of 19-year-old Valanciunas to compete at the highest level of international basketball were removed.

Jasikevicius was on the court for many of the 20 minutes that Valanciunas played and repeatedly penetrated and dished the ball to the 2.10m center for lay-ups and dunks.

By the end of the game, Valanciunas had 18 points.

He had to earn them all, too.

Valanciunas went head-to-head with Serbia's centers Nenad Krstic and Kosta Perovic.

While defending Krstic late in the first half, Valanciunas got an inadvertent smack in the mouth by the left shoulder of Krstic as the Serbian went up for a dunk.

But he didn't back down, and neither did any of his teammates for the entire 40 minutes.

"We played hard for all four quarters," Valanciunas said.

"I thank the fans because they put on a great atmosphere."

In no way was Lithuania's victory down to just two players, Jasikevicius and Valanciunas.

It takes a complete team effort to beat Serbia and Mantas Kalnietis, Martynas Pocius and Paulius Jankunas were awesome for the winners.

Lithuania killed Serbia with their long-range shooting, making 11 of 20 (55%) by game's end.

But Valanciunas announced that he is not just going along for the ride.

This young man is at times, dare we say, the driver.

Surely this is the most exciting development of all at the EuroBasket.


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