Lithuania aims to put fear into doubters with latest squad announcement

Lithuania aims to put fear into doubters with latest squad announcement

A good national team program is most dangerous when it is underestimated.

At the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, France fell into that category. A Bleus team that was rated below average not only beat star-studded host Spain in the quarterfinals in Madrid but also reached the podium.

Four years before that in 2010, a Lithuania team coming off a disappointing FIBA EuroBasket performance in Poland went undefeated until the Semi-Finals, where the team fell to eventual champions USA, yet bounced back by defeating Serbia to clinch third place.

This year, just 43 days from the start of their FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign in Manila, Lithuania may be undervalued. Coming from a EuroBasket where they survived a group of death in Cologne but then fell in the Round of 16, albeit in overtime to eventual champions Spain, Lithuania are not being hyped as a team that will reach the podium yet the extended squad it just announced can be dangerous.

“There was a lot of talk about some players not playing this year. But I think we managed to put together a solid squad that can aim for the highest goals,” said Lithuania coach Kazys Maksvytis.

“We will have less talent, but we can achieve our goals with discipline and will.

“We will start the training camp with 14 players – (Jonas) Valanciunas will join later according to NBA rules. We will also use three to four players from the reserve squad. (Ignis) Brazdeikis will be delayed by a week, and we don’t know yet from (Azuolas) Tubelis if he will be able to join as an NBA player on July 28.”

After the Group D draw with Egypt, Mexico, and Montenegro, it is understandable to assume that the Baltic team can win all three of its preliminary games.

Should Lithuania advance, it will face teams from Group C, which consists of the United States, Greece, New Zealand, and Jordan, in the second round.

With Valanciunas, one of the best centers in international basketball, Brazdeikis, Rokas Jokubaitis, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas all returning, Lithuania has reason to be optimistic.

Jokubaitis led the team in Germany in assists (4.0 per game), while Brazdeikis was very good in his first EuroBasket, averaging 10.7 points per game. Kuzminskas also has a penchant for making key plays in big games for Lithuania

Many of the players in the squad have gained important experience in international basketball by playing in the European Qualifiers for the World Cup, or for EuroBasket 2022.

There are also players in Lithuania’s new reserve team that is being coached by Darius Songaila that have been included in the extended squad.

Lithuania has announced a 10-game warmup schedule for the World Cup, so there will be ample opportunity to evaluate players as Maksvytis puts his team together.

They will take on Jordan (twice), Ukraine, Georgia, Finland (twice), France (twice), Puerto Rico, and Latvia.

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