In recent days, Lithuanian 3×3 basketball has received several acknowledgments, that have crowned it as the most successful year in the short history of the 3×3 basketball in Lithuania.
The Hoptrans 3×3 tournament was recognised as the best sports event of 2020 in the awards of the Lithuanian Federation of Sports Journalists (LSŽF) held online.
The basketball fiesta in Palanga in July became the first event of this scale after the first wave of the pandemic. It was attended by numerous fans, and the tournament’s games and the most spectacular episodes reached millions of fans around the world. The Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LKF) and the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) also made a huge contribution to the organisation of the tournament.
Rolandas Skaisgirys, the founder of the 3×3 basketball association, said that an even more impressive tournament is planned for this year.
„For us, this acknowledgment means a lot, you have put us in a bit of an awkward position now, because it is perhaps a little uncomfortable to overtake an international federation event”, – Skaisgirys joked at the awards. – It’s an old sport because we all played basketball in the back yard, but we’re new and young, the sport has been recently included into the Olympics. This year you will definitely get a new event, there will be a new arena, at least with 1.5 thousand. places.”
It was in the Hoptrans 3×3 tournament that Utena’s Juventus-Uniclub Casino emerged as an elite world-class team. After winning two of the three stages of Hoptrans 3×3 qualifiers and triumphing in the final of the tournament, the Utena team earned the right to debut on the international stage – FIBA 3×3 World Tour in Debrecen.
In Debrecen, team from Utena once again proved that their success in Lithuania was not just a coincidence. In all three stages of the World Tour they took part in, Utena was on the podium twice, taking second and two third places.
Ignas Vaitkus, a 27-year-old 197 cm tall guard, was the main leader of the team. After fans from all over the world expressed their voice on social networks, Vaitkus, won the most impressive player of 2020 in 3×3 basketball. He also made it to the team of the season, where according to the average efficiency scores, no one could match the leader of the Utena team.
It’s always fun to get recognised individually, – said Ignas Vaitkus. – Of course, it’s more fun to win even more than we managed this time. This is also the merit of the people – the people in Lithuania love 3×3 basketball. Each such award and appreciation delights both me and my family and helps to build up trust.”
Utena team has also won two more nominations provided by the 3×3 basketball commentator Kyle „The Voice” Montgomery.
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He recognized the Utena team as the best newcomers of last season. Throughout last season’s journey, Utena was represented by Ignas Vaitkus, Vytautas Šulskis, Gintautas Matulis, Žygimantas Skučas and Darius Tarvydas and head coach Žydrūnas Urbonas.
„The Lithuanian team overshadowed everyone, – said Kyle Montgomery. – They were tireless fighters. We saw them in the Debrecen Masters final, they finished third in Doha, and also made it to the semi-finals in the final stage. They have real killers in their team – Skučas, Vaitkus – these guys know how to win. I think that Utena’s Juventus-Uniclub Casino will stay up in the elite for a long time coming.”
Meanwhile, Žygimantas Skučas became the most creative basketball player to use his basketball shoe. This title was earned not by the very attractive appearance of the shoes, but by the famous story, when Skučas lost the shoe during the match and made a three-pointer. As soon as he got the shoe back, he threw it right next to the opponent, thus trying to stop him.
“I have to control and restraint myself less than I should do in the regular basketball. There are no personal fouls, everything happens fast. My family has also said that I fit better in the 3×3 basketball,” – shared his thoughts Skučas.
This year’s trio basketball in Lithuania will also be full of events – the Lithuanian 3×3 basketball championship will start already in the spring, and the country’s national team will compete for the opportunity to play in the Tokyo Olympic Games. So far, the roster of the Lithuanian national team is unclear, but a preliminary list of candidates will be published soon.
„We are happy to be where we are because no matter the team’s strength, it wouldn’t be easy to get into the Masters tournaments. There’s a big selection out there to at least get a chance to show your skill among those top teams. We are happy about that and now we are waiting for the national team’s camp and for the opportunity to go to the qualifiers for the Olympic Games,” – Vaitkus said about his future plans.