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July 2016
11 Dejan DAVIDOVAC (Serbia); 19 Martynas SAJUS (Lithuania)
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Lithuanian U20 preliminary team reveals depth

VILNIUS (FIBA U20 European Championship 2016) - In compiling his 16-strong preliminary squad for July's FIBA U20 European Championship, Lithuania head coach Tomas Masiulis has put together a varied mix of players.

Masiulis, who is also the coach of the Zalgiris Kaunas youth team and follows closely the progress of most of the 16 candidates throughout the year, has in effect included three distinct groups of players that highlight the depth of basketball talent in Lithuania.

 Lithuania U20 preliminary roster
Laurynas Beliauskas Laurynas Birutis Martynas Echodas Ignas Fiodorovas
Regimantas Miniotas  Valentinas Mitalauskas Mantas Montvila Margiris Normantas
Tautvydas Paliukėnas Edvinas Rupkus Martynas Sajus Giedrius Stankevičius
Martynas Varnas  Justas Vazalis Kristupas Žemaitis  Raimundas Zuklevičius

Big men Martynas Sajus and Regimantas Miniotas stand apart among the 16 as the only two players who had also participated in last summer's FIBA U20 European Championship, in Italy.

Sajus averaged 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds while Miniotas contributed 4.1 points and 4.4 boards per game in the 2015 event, where Lithuania finished in seventh place.

The third 1996-born player on that 2015 side, fellow big man Domantas Sabonis, has not been included on this year's U20 team as he is poised to be selected in the NBA draft and will probably remain in the USA until joining the senior national team later in the summer.

Masiulis however is able to call upon a quite sizeable segment of 1996-born players with huge potential that have not suited up for the national team since the 2014 edition of the U18 FIBA European Championship.

Sharp-shooting winger Tautvydas Paliukenas, who had averaged 10.9 points on a fantastic 48.9% from three-point range in that tournament, headlines this group.

Raimundas Zuklevicius and Justas Vazalis were also on that U18 Lithuanian side and have made significant progress in the past two years.

Last but not least, coach Masiulis has included three highly-promising 1997-born players who helped the U18 national team capture the bronze medal at the FIBA U18 European Championship last summer.

Martynas Echodas (14) and Martynas Varnas (13) played for Lithuania in last year's FIBA U18 European Championship

Martynas Echodas (14) and Martynas Varnas (13) played for Lithuania in last year's FIBA U18 European Championship

Martynas Varnas had led Lithuania in scoring and was named in the All-Star Five in that competition, Martynas Echodas led the team in blocks, Laurynas Beliauskas was one of the tournament's best in steals while the fourth player in this company, center Laurynas Birutis, has grown to 2.13m this year and will be the tallest player in Lithuania's roster if he makes the final cut.

Regardless of which 12 players are included in the final squad, Lithuania are almost certain to arrive at the summer tournament in Helsinki with the label of medal contenders, courtesy of their history in the competition.

The Baltic nation have won four medals at the FIBA U20 European Championship while they have reached the Quarter-Finals on 10 occasions in the 14 editions of the tournament since 2000.

The Lithuanian U20 side's training camp gets under way in Kaunas on 6 June and they will face neighbours Belarus, Estonia and Latvia in their first warm-up games on home soil.

Masiulis' team will then conduct a second stage of preparations in Turkey, where they will go up against Serbia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany and the Turkish hosts in their final friendlies before departing for Helsinki.

Interestingly, Lithuania will clash with both Germany and Turkey a few days later in Group A of the FIBA U20 European Championship, which also includes Hungary.