Vladas Garastas, former Lithuania national team head coach, and current Chairman of Lithuanian Basketball Federation Honorary Council shared his views on his country’s national team and its chances in the upcoming World Cup.
“Lithuanians should make it to the last four in the World Cup. Strong players were assembled that are able to fight for the medals”, Garastas said to Lietuvos Rytas daily.
“So far Lithuanians are head and shoulders above their opponents on the court [in friendly games]. I believe, that they will play better and better every day, reaching their top form in the World Cup”.
“Even if we lose to someone now, nothing bad would happen. The most important is for our guys to collect more points that their opponents starting from August 30 – the start of the World Cup”.
“Just image what would have happened if during the second game against Georgia Mantas Kalnietis’ injury was more serious and he couldn’t help the national team in Spain? It would be a catastrophe”, Garastas stressed the importance to avoid injuries in friendly games.
He also noted that during the final stage of preparation when Lithuania will play warm-up games in Slovenia and Croatia, the risk of injuries will be heightened since both of those teams are strong and will want to do well in front of their own fans.
This year new faces Arturas Gudaitis, Sarunas Vasiliauskas, Adas Juskevicius and Deivida Gailius were invited to the training and are knocking the national team’s door.
“All of them are worthy, but it would be head coach Jonas Kazlauskas who will decide which players to pick
“Nobody can tell the head coach who should be picked because it’s him who takes the main responsibility, in addition, he watches players in training everyday and sees who can do what.
“When I coached Lithuania national team, one sports functionary started to teach me that it would be better call this and not that player. I asked [him], if he would take responsibility publicly in case of failure. He started shaking his head immediately.”
So far coach Kazlauskas is satisfied with how the players are working and said that it would one of the more difficult days in his life when he has to decide which players should leave the team.
Though Vladas Garastas thinks that 11-12 player are not so important since they will play marginal role only.
“Jonas Kazlauskas said that the has already picked 10 players. If there’s the main 10, then the remaining 2 won’t play significant role.
“When I worked with the national team, we were joking that then you can take even your mother-in-law.”
None of the team’s in Group D that Lithuania will be facing should be underestimated according to Garastas.
“If a team made it to the World Cup, it means that it is strong and you have to give your best effort on the court in order to win.
“The most important game is always the game you play today. If we were to think that now we will somehow defeat African team and will try hard only when we play European or South American teams, we could be painfully disappointed.”
Garastas is confident that if the players fulfill the orders of the coach, the team should be among the top four teams come the end of the tournament.
Lithuania will face Mexico (30.08), Angola (31.08), Australia (02.09), Korea (03.09) and Slovenia (04.09) in Group D.