Valanciunas committed to joining Lithuania for third window
TORONTO (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - Jonas Valanciunas has been Lithuania's number one fan during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers.
Watching his countrymen in action has made for pleasant viewing so far for the Toronto Raptors center, with the basketball-proud Baltic nation going 4-0 in Group C over the course of the November and February windows.
Valanciunas has been in close contact with the national team staff throughout the season and confirmed he expects to be wearing Lithuania colors for the final two games of the First Round in June-July.
"EVERY TIME I'M HEALTHY, I GO AND REPRESENT MY COUNTRY AND HELP THE GUYS. I GUESS THAT'S A GOOD EXAMPLE OF ME BEING PROUD AND DETERMINED TO PLAY FOR THE NATIONAL TEAM" Valanciunas
FIBA.basketball spoke with the big man about Lithuania's qualifying campaign for China 2019, the upcoming tests against Hungary and Poland and his unwavering commitment to help the national team.
Jonas, Lithuania have done a great job in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers.
Yes the guys have been perfect so far and I'm happy to see Lithuania on top of the group. They got the job done and it's great to be with four wins and zero losses in the qualifying campaign. The team is growing and showing a nice mentality, a winning mentality. It's a great sign and a very positive thing for the national team. The Qualifiers are still long but we're doing everything to reach a spot for China 2019. The first step is to win the next two games in June and July.
Are you planning on playing during the next window?
Yes. That is in my summer plans, to play for the national team. We have been talking with the head coach [Dainius Adomaitis] and the rest of the staff about the plan for the entire team and me personally for the next window.
"I LIKE TO REPRESENT MY COUNTRY AND I HAVE BEEN DOING SO FOR A WHILE NOW. I'M ENJOYING IT AND IT'S A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF MY CAREER" Valanciunas
How important is it for you to play for the national team?
Every time I am healthy, I go and represent my country and help the guys. I guess that's a good example of me being proud and determined to play for the national team (smiles). I like to represent my country and I have been doing so for a while now. I have been able to play for Lithuania since the youth levels of the national team and I still have plenty of years to play for the senior one. I'm enjoying it and it is a very important part of my career.
In the February window, Lithuania played both of their games at home, in Klaipeda. How important is the home factor in your opinion?
It's very important to win at home. You have your fans, your family and your entire country and you can't miss because you have all the factors in your favor. The guys did a great job. They showed they can play well and not feel the pressure that sometimes comes with playing at home. Some players can be a bit scared to play at home, but the guys did a perfect job.
"THE YOUNG GUYS AND THE PLAYER THAT DIDN'T HAVE THAT MUCH EXPERIENCE WITH THE NATIONAL TEAM ARE GAINING SO MUCH EXPERIENCE. THAT'S OBVIOUS. PLAYING AT THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, THE FIBA LEVEL, GIVES YOU THE OPPORTUNITY TO COMPETE AGAINST SOME OF THE BEST GUYS AND NATIONAL TEAMS SO YOU HAVE TO STEP UP YOUR GAME" Valanciunas
The first game of the February window was against a solid Hungarian national team…
Hungary is a team that has showed great things at the last EuroBasket and proved they can play well. During the Qualifiers you have to play hard against every single team to not get surprised and lose a game you aren't supposed to lose. We still have two more games in the First Round and they won't be easy ones, as both Hungary and Poland would like to beat us. But we want to finish the First Round with six wins and we will do everything to get it done.
Some young guys are showing great things, making the most of the opportunity to play for the national team during these windows.
The young guys and the players that didn't have that much experience with the national team are gaining so much experience. That's obvious. Playing at the international level, the FIBA level, gives you the opportunity to compete against some of the best guys and national teams so you have to step up your game. I think that the guys that joined the national team not that long ago have done very well.