Rokas Jokubaitis says Jasikevicius’ shouting “keeps him focused”

2022-05-15T12:36:46+00:00 2022-05-15T12:37:26+00:00.

Alex Molina Perello

15/May/22 12:36

Eurohoops.net

EuroLeague Rising Star Rokas Jokubaitis is ready for the Final Four challenge and coach Jasikevicius’… impending shouting!

By Antigoni Zachari, Alex Molina / info@eurohoops.net

2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Rising Star Rokas Jokubaitis spoke to Eurohoops’ Alex Molina during a media availability in Barcelona, ahead of the Belgrade Final Four, which tips off next week (May 19-21).

At 21, the New York Knicks 2021 draft pick is headed to his first Final Four under the guidance of Sarunas Jasikevicius and a title-hungry Barcelona squad to face archrivals Real Madrid in the semifinal.

Jokubaitis breaks down his emotions before the big semifinal against Real, how fast he has adapted to Barcelona’s game, as well as his relationship with coach Jasikevicius. The Lithuanian point guard also discusses the differences between Barcelona and his former club, Zalgiris, as well as his thoughts about the NBA playoffs!

Eurohoops: We are entering the final and decisive weeks of the season, how do you think the team is right now?

Rokas Jokubaitis: Like you said there is not much left in the season, we played a very difficult 8-9 months in this season and the team is in the best shape, I hope so at least. It was a long and difficult season but everyone is mentally and physically ready because the main fights are left. The team is good and we are just waiting for these fights.

EH: Barça has finished at the top in Euroleague and Liga Endesa. Was this something you guys set as a goal before starting the season?

RJ: Yes. When I first came here to this club I understood that the bar is set very high, that everyone expects us to win. There is no other way to think, we need to win everything and that’s the result, we finished first in both leagues. I am proud of the guys but we need to finish the job.

EH: Like you said it’s your first season in Barça but you had already played some years back in Zalgiris. The Lithuanian team is known for having very loyal and devoted fans and this is something that coach Saras has always wanted for Barça, to have Barça fans be a key factor in home games. What do you think the main difference between the two crowds is? 

RJ: I wouldn’t say that the difference is very big. If we put our fans in the Zaligiro Arena it wouldn’t be even half of the capacity, because Palau Blaugrana is smaller. But the Spanish fans know when to start screaming and shouting, when to start putting pressure on the referees, they cheer us up and sometimes they can do it with just clapping and signing, no need to use drums. Spanish fans are more polite when everything is going in the right way but when we start to lose our lead they always try to cheer us up. In Lithuania they always sell every ticket, they are very loud but it’s different. They are passionate but people from Lithuania and Spain are different.

EH: You have already been playing for Barça for some months now so, let me ask you about your adaptation process. Has it been difficult? 

RJ: It wasn’t so bad. We have a lot of experienced players, most of the coaches, the physical trainer and even one doctor are Lithuanian so it was easier. But when it comes to adaptation to basketball… In Lithuania, you have the national league and then the Euroleague. In the Lithuanian league, there were easier games all the time, but here there are no easy games. You can lose to anyone, even the last team, and you have to fight for every win, and I think this was the hardest part, having to go to every game at your 100% but the coach know how to motivate us so I got used to it.

EH: There is currently a lot of Lithuanian staff in Barça and Sarunas Jasikevicius is at the top. Do you feel that he is extra tough on you because you are both Lithuanian and he had already coached you?

RJ: Maybe but not because I’m Lithuanian but because he knows me and my attitude. He invited me to his practices when I was 15 or 16 years old so he knows me very well, and how I react to things. I’m not saying I like to get yelled at but sometimes it’s good because you know what you did wrong and you know he isn’t shouting just to shout. I have no problem with that, if I get shouted at, I know why. I like his methods. For somebody, the shouting would be too much but it keeps me focused all the time.

EH: You have known him for a long time now, do you think he has changed during these years? 

RJ: A little bit for sure. This is Barça, a bigger club with bigger expectations. It’s not only basketball, you also have the football team and the Barça club is one of the biggest in Europe. The higher level veterans have a lot of experience and they do everything great, they don’t need to be shouted at. But in Zalgiris, there are a lot of young players and he tried to get through their heads. In that sense, he changed a little bit but Saras is Saras, he will always be the same. He wants to win everything.

EH: I know your schedule is crazy and you have a lot of games and training sessions, but are you following the NBA Playoffs? 

RJ: Yes, a little bit but not so much. I can only watch highlights, it’s impossible to follow everything. Playoffs are different from the regular season so I try to follow them as much as possible.