10 November, 2019
08 February, 2021
1 Juste Jocyte (LTU)
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The future is here: 13-year-old Jocyte has Lithuania back on the rise

KEDAINIAI (Lithuania) - It's fitting that Lithuanian teenage sensation Juste Jocyte doesn't have much of a birthday list, since she's already been handed the kind of wish that probably can't be matched.

After all, you only get to make your senior national team debut once.

Preparing to celebrate turning 14 years old on November 19, Jocyte can reflect on a truly unique and special experience - and one that has captured the imagination of basketball fans worldwide.

The stellar talented youngster stepped out for the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 Qualifiers against Albania and underlined why she is being labelled as the future of women's hoops for her country, by also getting a first basket at the elite level.

"Coming on the court from the locker room, with so many people, the jitters were there," confessed Jocyte at the post-game press conference as she revealed the emotions of her landmark night.

"I've never played in front of so many people before and there was also the extra responsibility I felt about playing at the senior level with women - and not with girls.

"My teammates were incredibly supportive throughout the days we spent at the camp. And I'm very thankful to them for that. That really helped me in the debut.

"I'm very happy that the coach gave me a chance to play and I think I used it pretty well," she stressed.

It's hard to argue with that assessment and Jocyte has every right to back her own stunning ability as she got on the scoresheet with a memorable first bucket at the elite level.

"I just let it fly," smiled the guard.

"I didn't know where it would end up, but it went in and that that took away some of the jitters, so I was very happy about that."

Sharing in that joy courtside were both her relatives and some of her teammates from this year's history-making team from the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship 2019.


 They reached the Final for the first time as Jocyte inspired them to silver. 

"It was great to have their support and to have them here cheering for me," she stated.

With Jocyte not taking part in the road trip to Turkey with the national team, it's her birthday this week that's now the next major event on her calendar. Although she's maybe keen to get to the big day more than most of her fellow teenagers.

"Presents aren't all that important to me, but turning 14? Maybe I won't look as young anymore," said Jocyte.

"Everyone keeps saying you're just 13, you're still very much a kid. So, maybe they'll see me as more mature."

Her incredible rise to prominence will also continue in coming weeks when she heads to Lyon to link up with the legendary Tony Parker at his rapidly expanding LDLC Asvel Feminin project.

Jocyte will attend the Academy and is hoping that despite no longer being in her homeland, it won't be a barrier to getting court time in the future with the seniors.

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Time has come for a new chapter🤝

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"I'll be waiting for a call-up to the national team as I enjoy being here with team and playing for my country a great deal," said Jocyte.

"It will obviously depend on the coaches. If I get a chance, I will come with great pleasure next year as well."

Of course while yet another hugely exciting new chapter is about to start, the balance of not getting too much exposure too young, means a delicate balance is needed - a fact not lost on Lithuanian senior team head coach, Mantas Sernius.

He said: "I don't know a better place in Europe for her to improve than France, both physically and otherwise. Knowing Tony Parker and his understanding of the game, and knowing the people who work at the club, they have a coach who plays team-oriented basketball.

"It's not the French muscle-and-power basketball as some people understand it. It's smart basketball and I don't doubt that Juste's team will play smart basketball."


 The playcaller also advised the rationale behind Jocyte not playing in the second game of the window - as well as confessing how impressed he is by her skills at this early stage of her career.

"It will be a war in Turkey, so we have to keep an eye on Juste because she's a pearl and we cannot afford that," explained Sernius.

"It is a great pleasure to work with a basketball player like her. It's every coach's dream to have a player with such basketball IQ. We would be going through new plays in practice and she would execute without mistakes. Having a player who is 13-14 years old and can do that is great and that's a big advantage of hers as a point guard.

"It doesn't matter which position she plays on the court, but she'll be the one making the tough decisions in the game. She's a 'decider'.

"I think she should be in every national team going forward. She should be getting a taste of the national team, because in Lithuania, it's the highest level of basketball," he concluded.