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I always wanted to follow in my father's footsteps - Sabonis says
VILNIUS (Lithuania) - Arvydas Sabonis left an enormous legacy in Lithuanian basketball. Regardless of the size of the shadow that his father cast, current Lietuva star Domantas Sabonis revels in following in those footsteps.
The younger Sabonis, who played in the Lithuania team that reached the Quarter-Finals of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, is gearing up for his second appearance on the global stage with Lithuania set to play at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.
"I grew up watching my dad play," the younger Sabonis said. "As a kid, I just always wanted to follow in his footsteps: play for your country, win medals, fight against other countries. Arvydas Sabonis won titles at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 1982, the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and FIBA EuroBasket 1985 for the Soviet Union. Following the breakup of that country, he captured Olympic bronze medals with Lithuania in 1992 and 1996. He was also in the Lithuania team that won silver at the FIBA EuroBasket 1995.
Arvydas Sabonis faces Oscar Schmidt of Brazil at the 1992 Olympics
Domantas Sabonis started playing for Lithuania at the youth levels, one FIBA U16 European Championship, two FIBA U18 European Championships and one FIBA U20 European Championship before making his senior national team debut at FIBA EuroBasket 2015.
"Putting on my country’s jersey for the first time (at senior level) was amazing," Sabonis said of FIBA EuroBasket 2015. Lithuania reached the Final before falling to Spain.
Sabonis played in two games during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers, averaging 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Those games were played at Poland and Hungary.
Lithuania always have a big group of fans that travels to support them in big tournaments.
"Lithuania is a basketball country," Sabonis said. "Everyone says it’s like our religion. We have an amazing fanbase. They go with us to every game. They’re always there screaming, shouting, supporting us."
“I GREW UP WATCHING MY DAD PLAY. AS A KID I JUST ALWAYS WANTED TO FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS: PLAY FOR YOUR COUNTRY, WIN MEDALS, FIGHT AGAINST OTHER COUNTRIES.”
Sabonis will be looking for those fans to give the team a lift when it plays in what is viewed as the toughest of First Round pools, Group H, which is also made up of Australia, Canada and Senegal. What style of game will Lithuania employ in those games?
"We shoot a lot of threes, but we usually play the right way: defense, aggressive, we're going to fight," Sabonis said.
Father and son: Arvydas and Domantas Sabonis (back row) at the 2016 Olympics
The 23-year-old Sabonis is expecting the first-ever 32 team World Cup to be special.
"I really think the world has game," he said. "Every year we're seeing many countries with many talents come here to compete. China is going to be really interesting. It's gonna be fun."