– Article appeared originally on the official FIBA U17 World Championship event website kaunas2012.fiba.com –
AUNAS (heinnews) – Over the years the Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis academies have been churning out some of the biggest and brightest stars of Lithuanian basketball.
While the elite hoops hopefuls from Vilnius and Kaunas have schools of Lithuanian legends to attend, the top shooters of the basketball-mad nation hail from the seaside city of Klaipeda.
Consider Haroldas Saprykinas and Zydrunas Jurgutis the next in a long line of Lithuanian marksmen who learned their deadly outside shooting on the west coast of the country.
Who have come before them? How about the likes of Arvydas Macijauskas, Saulius Stombergas, Tomas Delininkaitis and Simonas Serapinas?
Yeah, Klaipeda can be called a shooter’s paradise.
“Klaipeda is known in Lithuanian basketball for the good shooters, first of all,” said Lithuania coach Paulius Juodis.
Saprykinas has nailed 46 per cent of his 28 three-pointers through four games including 6 of 12 against Croatia. And Jurgutis is making 24 per cent of his triples with a 2 of 6 showing against Spain.
“The strong side for him is shooting. My job is to make sure Saprykinas gets the ball and if he’s open, he has to shoot it,” said Juodis.
Saprykinas and Jurgutis know their teammates from the Marciulionis and Sabonis academies well from their years of battling for Lithuanian league crowns – though it’s Marciulionis and Sabonis who have bragging rights.
“Klaipeda is not a big town, but we’ve been playing very well. We sometimes win, sometimes lose, but the feeling is very good when we win against Marciulionis, because we’re a small town. We’re third in Lithuania after Marciulionis and Sabonis,” said Saprykinas.
“Yeah, I think it’s a rivalry. We know that when we’re going to play against Sabonis or Marciulionis, it’s going to be a big clash. We know that it’s a big match and we’re playing with a lot of concentration.”
But when it’s time to come together with Lietuva on their chest, Saprykinas sets all club issues aside.
“It’s a good feeling playing with Sabonis and Marciulionis guys. We’re just playing, we’re just teammates,” Saprykinas said.
It’s just that the Klaipeda are the shooters.