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Lithuania gearing up for another Olympic summer
VILNIUS (Rio 2016 Olympic Games) - Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Croatia and Nigeria is a very impressive list of national teams when it comes to international basketball. Such opponents in the Group Phase at an Olympics might send a chill down the spine of a coach, but not Lithuania's Jonas Kazlauskas.
The veteran coach, as they say, has been there and done that.
"You never get to choose between rivals," he said. "Our group, all the contestants are very strong, so our first task will be to get to the next stage. I'm very proud of my men that got into the Olympics right away..."
Lithuania have been at every Olympics since 1992. They have always been a factor. To advance to the Final Phase, the team will need to claim a top-four finish.
Lithuania booked their place in the Olympics by reaching the Final of EuroBasket 2015. They knocked off Italy in the Quarter-Finals after overtime and then beat a Serbia side that many had expected to win the tournament.
A testament to how strong Lithuania's showing was last year in France can be seen by the success of Europe at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs).
Serbia blew out all of their opponents in Belgrade. They defeated Puerto Rico twice, including in the Final, and also Angola and the Czech Republic. All three of those OQT winners finished below the Lithuanians at the EuroBasket.
Lithuania, meanwhile, on Sunday whipped the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship winners Venezuela, 84-53, in a friendly at the Siemens Arena in Vilnius.
Adas Juskevicius led the way with 15 points while Jonas Valanciunas and Marius Grigonis weighed in with 14 and 13, respectively. Lithuania killed Venezuela from the perimeter, drilling 13-of-29 three-pointers.
"We started the game with good energy and concentration, and this allowed us to set a good tone and get away from the opponents," Juskevicius said.
Lithuania were to host the Netherlands on Tuesday night and then two days later Belarus.