01 - 18
September 2022
11 Domantas Sabonis (LTU)
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Sabonis dreams of getting Lithuania back on the podium

COLOGNE (Germany) - Lithuania did not make things easy for themselves but the three-time continental champions are Berlin bound for the Knockout Phase of FIBA EuroBasket 2022, and Domantas Sabonis can still dream of returning to the podium.

Lietuva dropped their first three games in Group B and then needed help from France to beat Bosnia and Herzegovina to stay alive. In the end, Lithuania finished the job with victories over Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"Big time relieved. We're onto the next phase," said Sabonis about helping Lithuania avoid elimination from the group stage for the first time in EuroBasket history.

"The championship starts now again, fresh. It's win or go home every game."

Sabonis stressed that the team remained focused on the task even when they were sitting at 0-3 in Group B.

"This group is amazing. We've stuck together and the atmosphere in the team was as great as ever. Everyone was still having fun at shoot arounds and stuff. We know we are a good team, and we fought until the end in those three games," he said of the three defeats, which were by a combined 13 points.

The Sacramento Kings big man is hungry to finally get back to the podium of a major competition. He was on the team that reached the Final of EuroBasket 2015 - the country's last medal.

A 21-year-old Domantas Sabonis next to Jonas Valanciunas at FIBA EuroBasket 2015

"That's the one year that sticks in my head. I didn't play much. I was a young guy. But just seeing all the Lithuanian legends fight. We were the underdog and to get to the Final every game was a battle. And that sticks in my mind and, we are trying to repeat that," said Sabonis, who collected 12 points and 8 rebounds in 29 minutes among four games as a 21-year-old.

In EuroBasket 2022, Sabonis is third on the team in scoring with 12.0 points and second in rebounds with 7.0 boards while also dishing out 2.8 assists.

Just from the Group Phase, he knows how tough this competition is. And it will only get tougher as the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Lauri Markkanen  among other NBA stars converge on Berlin for the Round of 16 on September 10 and 11.

"It's really cool for the Europeans, for the EuroBasket and for all these players to be competing here. It makes the tournament even harder but at the same time a lot more exciting and fun. The more NBA players that can play and play for the national teams just makes everything a lot more, a lot more exciting," the 26-year-old Sabonis said.

One of Sabonis' teammates is also an NBA star, the team captain Jonas Valanciunas, who is four years older. The big man duo have played together for their national team since that 2015 squad.

"I think every summer we feel each other out more and more. I feel like the chemistry is great. Our first time really playing together was at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, and since then I only think it's gotten better and better," Sabonis said.

Sabonis knows having himself and Valanciunas on the court at the same time is a nightmare for most teams.

"It's just tough for opponents offensively and defensively. It's just two big dudes. Traditionally, we would be playing separately but we're playing together. So I think it takes a lot of energy for other teams."

Sabonis and Valanciunas stepped up in the Bosnia and Herzegovina game, combining for 25 points, 21 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.

"There's a lot on our shoulders, both of us. We gotta lead the team. And I feel that these last couple of games we were at least a little more aggressive," he said.

And that leadership has been felt.

Domantas Sabonis, Ignas Brazdeikis and Jonas Valanciunas

"They've done a great job. They’ve been here for a while. They’re the veteran guys so we look at them and they kind of set the tone for us. What they bring to the table is huge for us each and every night, their focus and everything helps push us," Ignas Brazdeikis said.

"Domas is a great guy, but he's not the loud guy who will push everybody. When he gets mad, get out of the way," added Marius Grigonis.

Spain are next up for Lithuania in the Round of 16, and both them any other future opponents should be considered forewarned that Sabonis is ready for some hardware.