At the FIBA U20 Championship Men in Rhodes, David Hein of heinnews today spoke with national team coaches Jonas Kazlauskas and Gustavo Aranzana, plus this year’s newest USC Trojan, Nikola Vucevic, in between the action.
(heinnews) – Greek national team coach Jonas Kazlauskas was sighted watching his U20 Lithuanian compatriots before switching gyms to see the Greek U20 team later on Friday. Also, USC players are expected to come to Greece on Saturday to observe Montenegrin power forward Nikola Vucevic, and Pablo Aguilar’s return appears set back again.
Glancing around the gym in Rhodes on Friday at the U20 European Championship, there was a familiar face in Kazlaukas, who took over the Greek national team. He was on hand for Lithuania’s massacre of Israel and one player he discussed with heinnews was Donatas Motiejunas.
“I like him. I saw him two years ago. Back then I was a little disappointed. What I saw he only tried to shoot. But now I see he plays well in the low post and one-on-one. He does a lot of good things on defense: rebounds and blocks shots. So he has really improved a lot.”
Kazlauskas also noticed how Motiejunas kept his cool when the Israel low-post players tried to shove him around and he shrugged off the attempts to rattle him, looking over to the referees for help, but not complaining.
“This is good too because he is able to control himself better now. So I like very much what I see from him on the court. But it’s not good to talk too much about young players.”
Kazlauskas also addressed his injury concerns with the Greek senior team, as Dimitris Dimantidis, Theo Papaloukas and Panagiotis Vassilopoulos are all banged up.
“Now we are trying to fix this problem and it’s a really big problem. Those are guys who play the 1, 2 and 3 positions, and for sure it will hurt us.”
Kazlaukas admitted that he had not seen this U20 group of Greek players with the junior national team yet but was going to observe them on Friday and Saturday. He did offer this observation ahead of time, however: “For sure they will be the future of Greece. But right now the Greek team is strong. And it’s difficult for someone to come in and change those guys.”
Talking to Nikola Vucevic on Friday for a story on fibaeurope.com, the power forward said he hopes to work hard next season at USC and try to find his place in a team which lost two first round NBA draft picks in DeMar DeRozan (No. 9) and Taj Gibson (No. 26) as well as Italian national team guard Daniel Hackett.
Vucevic also said that he expects new USC coach Kevin O’Neill or someone from the USC coaching staff at the game on Saturday. The sophomore-to-be told heinnews that he hadn’t met O’Neill yet and added: “He is supposed to come tomorrow (Saturday). So I will meet him tomorrow. He wants to come so that he can see me play a little bit and see what I can do. When I was playing my freshman year in America I didn’t play a lot. I played about 15 minutes, but I wasn’t able to do stuff that I do here (at the U20s) because they were better players than me. So I wasn’t able to really do what I want. So here I have more freedom to play and show what I can do.”
One other observation, Spanish coach Gustavo Aranzana gave heinnews an update on his star center Pablo Aguilar. After initially saying Aguilar could play Monday in the start of the qualifying round, Aranzana said: “I hope he can play Tuesday now. Or maybe Wednesday.”
Aguilar was still walking gingerly on his right ankle and in the team hotel he had his right leg taped all the way up to just below the knee. At the game against Latvia, he had a small two-inch brace around the ankle and supportive tape running up his calf.