NOVI SAD (FIBA U19 World Championship) - Probably the most disappointed team in the tournament is Lithuania. Coming here as the finalist of the European Championship last year, and as a team with long and respected tradition, nobody in Lithuania can be happy with fighting for the 9th spot.
One of the top players of this generation in Lithuania is Martynas Gecevicius. Yet another sharp-shooter in an impressive line of gunners Lithuanian basketball produced.
The shooting guard from Vilnius made a big jump in his career during the last season, when runner-up Lietuvos Rytas took him from the small local club - Sakalai, where he spent two and a half seasons.
Coming here as one of the top scorers, after averaging 16.5 ppg in the U18 European Championship last year, Gecevicius dropped to 11.3 ppg, but still remained one of the best long range bombers with 13 in 26 behind the arc.
Gecevicius and Lithuania had higher ambitions than playing the 9-12 classification games in Novi Sad, but two close loses - in opening day to France and later on to Brazil, faced them with a tougher reality.
Now they fight for their honor. Gecevicius spoke with fiba.com about the reasons for the disappointing results, and his future plans.
FIBA: What changed from last year when you were runner-ups to this tournament?
Martynas Gecevicius: "We lost two close games, and it was very hard to prepare for the next game. Then we had a tough draw with Serbia and USA in the second round, and they are two of the best teams here."
FIBA: We are at the quarter-finals stage. Who are your favorites?
Martynas Gecevicius: "I would say USA, France, Australia and Serbia will be the four finalists. They are the best teams here."
FIBA: What were your expectations coming here?
Martynas Gecevicius: "We were talking about several scenarios. We were hoping to go back with a medal, but the first goal was to be in the top eight and then hope to have a good game and make it to the semi-finals. We don't feel good because we didn't make that. Now we are not in a good situation. We didn't come here to be 9-12. I'm very disappointed. I don't play well, and the team doesn't play well."
FIBA: What was missing for you in the games against France and Brazil?
Martynas Gecevicius: Maybe we thought we are a much better team. Psychologically it was very tough. We had a day, or even less time, to rest and recover, and when we were in a bad condition both physically and psychotically we couldn't play our game."
FIBA: You took a lot of shots in the games vs. Brazil and France. Did coach ask you to step up, or is it something you felt needed?
Martynas Gecevicius: "I must do something on court. I'm a shooter. Coach believes in me, and I must believe in myself, but something has changed. I don't know what happened, but I must forget that and move on."
FIBA: What was it like for you to be signed by Rytas?
Martynas Gecevicius: "That was a big day for me. Big success, because it was in the middle of the season and I didn't expect that. I was very happy when I signed there. I didn't play a lot in the beginning, but had some good games at the end of the season, and I hope to play more next year."
FIBA: Many Lithuanian use Rytas and Zalgiris as a jumping board to the biggest teams of Europe and the NBA. What are your future plans?
Martynas Gecevicius: "I don't think about the future so much. I focus on my time in Rytas, and what I need to do on court. I need to get better and better. I must improve my defense because right now it's not in a high level. I will try my best for to do that. It's my job."
By Yarone Arbel