By Aris Barkas
Eurocup is the second string international competition of Europe next to the main show of Euroleague. But some teams and specially some players of Eurocup are more than good enough for the Euroleague and in some cases, even for the NBA.
This is the case of Jonas Valanciunas, last year’s no5 NBA draft pick, that stayed in Lithuania, wearing the colors of Lietuvos Rytas because of the lock out. It was a choice made by need, but also a chance for the 20 years old center to mature, before crossing the pond.
His Eurocup’s numbers show that he did a great job (11.3 ppg., 64.1% 2FG, 7.9 rpg., 1.6 bpg., 16.9 index) and of course the Toronto Raptors that have his NBA rights are watching him and waiting to sign him this summer, as team vice president Maurizio Gherardini clarifies to Eurohoops.net.
“Yes, our plan is to sign him this summer as we hope he can be a key piece of our core group of young talented players, a very nice piece for the future of the Raptors”, he says and he doesn’t mind if he has to wait a little more, because of Valanciunas’ commitment to Lithuanian National Team that will compete in FIBA pre-Olympic tournament in Venezuela and probably in the London’s Olympics: “We do not have any objections as we understand how much any player in the world would like to do whatever it takes to represent your country with the National Team and, in this specific case, to make it to the Olympic Games”.
Jonas Valanciunas is the winner of the Eurocup “Rising Star” award for the 2011-12 season and he is also a member of All-Eurocup first team together with Valencia Basket power forward Nik Caner-Medley, the guards Patrick Beverley of Spartak St. Petersburg and Zoran Planinic of BC Khimki and his teammate in Lietuvos Rytas, small forward Ronnie Seibutis.