On Monday, the Lithuanian 3 × 3 basketball team visited the House of Basketball before leaving to Austria for the Olympic qualifiers tournament.
The players of the national team – Aurelijus Pukelis, Šarūnas Vingelis, Darius Tarvydas, Paulius Semaška, Modestas Kumpis and Ignas Vaitkas – were given a jersey of the national team, and the head coach of the national team Dainius Novickas was awarded a tricolour. Lithuanians are set to travel to Graz, Austria on Tuesday.
The management of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LKF) and the 3 × 3 Basketball Association hope to achieve the main goal – win the ticket to the Olympic games. 3 × 3 basketball will debut in the Olympic program this summer, in Tokyo.
„In 1992, Lithuania also got a chance to participate in the Olympics for the first time, it was necessary to play in the qualifiers, and maximise the opportunity. I wish you the same. Guys, everything depends on you, and we hope that you will be able to achieve the best results”, – said Arvydas Sabonis, President of LKF.
„It is a new sport’s discipline, its transformation would be completely different if it will be successful for us. There would be unlimited opportunities for sports, livelihood and other things”, – said Rolanas Skaisgirys, the founder of the 3 × 3 basketball association.
„I would wish them to become an Olympians. It speaks for itself. Everything is in your hands, protect yourself”, – said LKF Secretary General Mindaugas Špokas.
„If Lithuania makes it to the Olympics, it will contribute to the growth of the sport in Lithuania, and there will be endless opportunities for you”, – said Ignas Grinevičius, the director of the 3 × 3 basketball association.
Last week, the team received a very unpleasant news – Ignas Vaitkus, who had been practicing with the national team for only a few days, broke his ankle during the practice. However, another candidate was ready to replace in case of a force majeure situation. The final roster of the team will be announced on May 25th.
„If we were to find out about our participation in the qualifiers tournament at the last second, then it would be difficult to change anything, but, now, everyone has been working in the training camp for 3-4 weeks and I am very happy that many people have contributed to this process. I always say that if we were meant to go through the more difficult process, then we will gladly follow it and will never stop competing and reaching highest results”, – said Dainius Novickas.
“Ignas’ injury was really painful loss for the team. Nevertheless, we still have another 4 players that can perfomr to the highest level. Tonight we will rest, tomorrow we will get on the plane – and will be ready to play”, – said Darius Tarvydas, player of the national 3×3 team.
Novickas said that there were still aspects to be fixed in the team’s game in recent days, but they managed to be noticed and fixed on time.
„Friendly games outlined our weak side and other mistakes, but we had enough time to correct them. Now we feel fully prepared. We know what we are going there for. The sooner we start, the sooner we will get to the Olympics”, – added Novickas.
Olympic qualifier tournament for the 3×3 basketball will start on Thursday. In group B, Lithuanian competitors will be Kazakhstan, the United States, Belgium and South Korea. The group competition will end on Saturday.
If the team manages to secure at least second place in Group B, then they will qualify for the quarter-finals that will be played on Sunday. One of the teams from Group D – the Netherlands, Latvia, Canada, Croatia or Austria – would become its competitors.
„We are ready for all challenges that the tournament might bring for us but I think that it is better to play against the opponents that you know because we had a chance to analyse their game and learn their tricks. We feel fully prepared for the tournament and leaving to Austria with the positive energy”, – said Dainius Novickas.
In case of a successful outcome, Lithuanians will be able to fight for one of the three Olympic tickets next Monday. Winning the semifinals would secure a place at the Tokyo Olympics. Otherwise, the match for third place would be the decisive match. Only the team that wins in the 3rd place game will be awarded with the ticket to Japan.
The trio basketball games at the Tokyo Olympic Games will take place on July 24th-28th and will feature 8 national teams.