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Lithuania to miss locker room presence of retiring captain Javtokas
KAUNAS (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - It will not be easy for Lithuania to replace Robertas Javtokas at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 and beyond, with the 37-year-old big man deciding to bring his playing days to a conclusion.
The long-serving captain of the national team, who first assumed the duties at FIBA EuroBasket 2009, bowed out from professional basketball with little fanfare, but with another Lithuanian championship title, already his ninth.
"I had made up my mind even before the start of the season that this would be my last campaign and, over the course of the season, I just got confirmation that it should really be the last one."Javtokas
Having won the first three as a high-flying athlete with Lietuvos Rytas at the start of his basketball journey, the last six came with Zalgiris Kaunas, as his sun had already begun to set.
"I had made up my mind even before the start of the season that this would be my last campaign and, over the course of the season, I just got confirmation that it should really be the last one. There is still a desire to play and I still think that I can, but my body is starting to send me some signals and the diminishing role does too," Javtokas said of his decision.
After having his number called with 11 seconds on the clock in Game 5 of the LKL Finals, Javtokas stepped onto the court for one last time, but his special moment was soon consumed by celebratory roars and champagne showers, as Zalgiris triumphed after a 4-1 series victory against Lietkabelis.
"I wanted to play, but the game turned out the way it did and the coach couldn't find the time for me until the very end. It's a pity, but what can you do. But right now I just want to go and celebrate with the team for the last time," the player said.
Javtokas might have lost the bounce in his game from his earlier days after a horrific motorcycle accident, but never has he stopped being a high-character human being, who always put the team and his teammates above himself.
Whether it would be playing through an injury with a mouthful of painkillers or taking one for the team and being contempt with a reduced role, he didn’t complain.
One doesn't simply become the captain of the always star-studded Lithuania locker room without a good reason. That locker room is a special place, as any former or current member of the national team would attest.
From defense to team chemistry, Javtokas was the glue that kept everything in place for Lithuania
Having won two FIBA EuroBasket silver medals in 2013 and 2015 and claimed bronze at FIBA EuroBasket 2007 and the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010, Javtokas ends his professional career as the fourth most capped player in the history of the Lithuanian national team with 91 games played.
Since making his international debut for Lithuania at FIBA EuroBasket 2001 as a third-string center behind Gintaras Einikis and Eurelijus Zukauskas, Javtokas has never been among the team’s stars on the court. However, off the court, the man with the shark tattoo on his left arm might have been exactly what has made the Green Machine tick.