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Old 06-08-2011, 08:07 PM   #16 (permalink)

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Jonas Valanciunas is known as one of the most talented European prospects. He made a huge leap from Lithuanian second league to a Euroleague starting five in only two years. The 19-year-old center has had a spectacular career so far but the most exciting moments are still ahead for Valanciunas.

This summer will be the most important and busiest in Valanciunas life, as the Lithuanian talent will participate in NBA Draft and will play in 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship. And thatís not all. Valanciunas will also try to do his best to be named to the final roster of the Lithuanian national team, which will play in EuroBasket 2011 this fall at their home country.

In an exclusive interview with RealGM, Valanciunas introduced himself and shared his thoughts about last season, the upcoming NBA Draft, the future of his NBA career and much more.

RealGM: First of all, could you describe yourself as a player for people who haven't seen you play?

Valanciunas: I am a player who can play both the center and power forward position and I spend most of the time under the basket. I like tough basketball; amazing dunks, blocked shots and I also try to grab rebounds.

RealGM: When did you realize that basketball was more to you than just a hobby?

Valanciunas: I understood that when I came to Vilnius when I was 14-years-old. I felt that basketball is what I want from this life and that I will not give up.

RealGM: Just a few years ago you played in the second Lithuanian league (NKL) and now you were the main center on a Euroleague team. Could you identify the main reasons for this quick progress in your career?

Valanciunas: Hard work, practices and a wish. I think I was lucky because the best Lithuanian basketball coaches were working with me. People also are talking that I am gifted and I have a long hands (smiling).

RealGM: How could you evaluate your 2010-11 season? How has the Euroleague experience changed your game?

Valanciunas: I evaluate this reservedly. I really was not happy about all the things I did on basketball court. Because of my young age and inexperience I was making mistakes. However, the experience I gained is very valuable. It really changed my game in local leagues (LKL and BBL) because I gained confidence.

RealGM: In your opinion, which aspects of your game need to improve the most to become a better player?

Valanciunas: I think I should improve everything. I should demonstrate more versatile basketball on offense since I cannot play only in pick and rolls all the time. After all, I shoot well from mid-range and beyond the arc in practices. I like to play my back-to-the-basket and I also can score over slower centers when I face the basket. Of course, I have to add more physical power, athletisim to my game, improve my spurt, accuracy. I have to learn how to read the game more better.

RealGM: How do you combine school and sports?

Valanciunas: It is difficult (smiling). I am trying to pay attention to school but things don't always go the way I want.

RealGM: Did you ever get an offer to study and play basketball in the U.S.?

Valanciunas: I didnít get a real offer but I heard that there were indirect proposals to go to the States and play basketball there. However, I signed a contract with a professional basketball team pretty early and I donít regret that because I have had a chance to show my self at the top European basketball level.

RealGM: I heard that your height is almost 6-foot-9 right now and you are still growing. Is it true? How much did you grow in the last two years?

Valanciunas: Without shoes my high is really 6-foot-9. With shoes it is almost 7-foot. I grew an about 1.5-2.3 inches in the last two years. I want to believe that I am still growing. To add another inch would be nice (smiling).

RealGM: A lot of NBA scouts came to Vilnius to see you play during the season. Moreover, just a few years ago people didnít know you and now you are probably the most popular player in the country. Was it difficult to deal with the attention you received this season?

Valanciunas: I donít think so. I just tried to avoid distraction before most important games and practices. I tried to focus on my work and then I always kindly communicate with people who want to talk with me. I donít think that attention is a bad thing.

RealGM: You have mentioned that your favorite player is Dwight Howard. Is it still the case? Was he as an example and inspiration to you?

Valanciunas: Every NBA player can inspire you. I just like the way Howard plays. I like his dunks and his power when he plays under the basket. Thatís why I donít change my opinion.

RealGM: Do you believe that you could make an instant impact to your team's success or you would need few years to adapt? What kind of role would you want to have on your team?

Valanciunas: I think it depends on a team. Every rookie needs one or two seasons to adjust and be useful. I hope that I will need less time. I would want to be effective on both ends of the floor.

RealGM: A lot of European players are afraid to go play in the NBA because of the competition. Are you unafraid to compete with older, more experienced and athletic NBA players?

Valanciunas: If you are afraid why even enter the NBA Draft? It should be the opposite way. You need to be happy and use the opportunity to play with stronger players than you are. It helps to reach perfection.

RealGM: Are you influenced by either the successful or unsuccessful European players who have come to the NBA?

Valanciunas: It does not influence me. I think that everyone personally plans its own future.

RealGM: Do you pay attention to NBA Mock Drafts during the season or now?

Valanciunas: That is my agentsí job. However, I have heard that it means nothing. NBA teams donít rely on them.

RealGM: Are you concerned with which NBA team will select you in the NBA Draft?

Valanciunas: I have never thought about it. There is no sense to do that. Any team can pick me and it would be unwise to expect something and later become disappointed. I hope the coach from the team that picks me will help me to get to the court as soon as possible.

RealGM: In your opinion, what can you do to help your team to improve? What are your strong sides?

Valanciunas: At the moment, I am pretty good at rebounding, doing pick and roll and free throws. I would not want to concentrate on just that, I hope I can improve my game and help the team to reach better results.

RealGM: What should NBA fans know about you on a personal level?

Valanciunas: I am a simple guy form Utena (smiling). I like to play basketball, go fishing, spend time with my friends and I also like cars.

RealGM: What are your plans for this summer?

Valanciunas: At the moment I am taking my final exams and later on I will join Lithuanian U19 team, which prepares for the upcoming FIBA U19 World Championship.

RealGM: Do you think you are ready to represent Lithuanian national team?

Valanciunas: I canít answer this question. I wonít lie - I would love to try, but in my opinion only the best should play for the national team.

RealGM: Do you believe it is currently a good time to play in the NBA, or would you still want to remain in Europe?

Valanciunas: No one knows when its time to go play in NBA. I just know one thing, NBA is my dream and one day I will definitely play there. But we will see how everything will go. Maybe if lockout happens, I will have an opportunity to play some more in Europe.
Interview With Jonas Valanciunas - RealGM Articles
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