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2011-12 Qualifying Rounds Profile: Lietuvos Rytas
September 20, 2011
Over the course of a decade, Lietuvos Rytas has gone from unknown to knocking at the door of the continental elite. And after competing with the best in the Euroleague in four of the past six seasons, Rytas will try to get back there again via the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Qualifying Rounds. Last season Rytas came within a victory of reaching the Euroleague playoffs and got back to the finals in both the Lithuanian League and Cup, but finished the season without any titles. That is a rare occurrence for a team that has enjoyed a steady diet of recent success. The modern Lietuvos Rytas has existed only since 1997, but its creation filled a hole left by what had been Vilnius's first great basketball club, Statyba, which finished third in the Soviet Union championship back in 1979. Rytas quickly earned a reputation as a top Lithuanian team and a hard-to-beat squad at any level. It went to the 2000 Saporta Cup semifinals and won the Lithuanian League that season, breaking a decade of domination by Zalgiris. In 2002, Rytas cemented its status as a domestic powerhouse by adding another Lithuanian League crown. Rytas made its ULEB Cup debut in the 2003-04 season and advanced to the quarterfinals. The club went all the way in 2005, beating Makedonikos for the title and a ticket to the 2005-06 Euroleague. Once in Europe's marquee competition, Rytas beat all of its regular season opponents at least once, but losses against Final-Four bound Tau Ceramica and eventual champ CSKA Moscow prevented L. Rytas from reaching the playoffs. Always ambitious, Rytas lifted the Baltic League and the Lithuanian League trophies that season. Rytas returned to the ULEB Cup Final in 2007, losing against Real Madrid, but earned its way to the Euroleague and defended the Baltic League title. Back in the Euroleague for the 2007-08 season, Rytas reached the Top 16, but lost three domestic finals against Zalgiris. Rytas bounced back with its best season ever - lifting five trophies in 2008-09. Chuck Eidson was the Eurocup MVP and Marius Petravicius earned Final Eight MVP honors as Rytas rallied past Khimki to win its second continental title. Rytas added all four possible domestic titles for a dream campaign. Two years ago Rytas won the double in Lithuania again, but last season the proud club came up just short. However that is certain to make Rytas as hungry as ever this time around.
Lietuvos Rytas may be the most experienced team in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Qualifying Rounds with seven players back from last season and 11 with previous Euroleague experience. Those factors alone make head coach Aleksandar Dzikic’s team dangerous, but playing the Qualifying Rounds at home in Vilnius further boosts Rytas’s chances. Tyrese Rice, perhaps the most important of the Euroleague rookies, brings an electrifying brand of basketball that generates points for himself and others. He will team with the more-experienced Aleksandar Rasic at point guard. Shooting guard Renaldas Seibutis and veteran marksman Steponas Babrauskas look to benefit from Rice’s penetrations, while feisty small forwards Brad Newley and Arturas Jomantas impact the game at both ends. Lawrence Roberts and Mindaugas Katelynas will look to dominate the glass at power forward, while rising star Jonas Valanciunas could be due a dominant year in the middle. Behind him are Vilmantas Dilys and Predrag Samardziski, who give Rytas plenty of size. Ultimately, Rytas looks to have the right mix to be a serious force in the Qualifying Rounds.
4 - Paulius Dambrauskas
5 - Steponas Babrauskas
6 - Tyrese Rice
7 - Lawrence Roberts
8 - Arvydas Siksnius
10 - Renaldas Seibutis
12 - Vilmantas Dilys
14 - Predrag Samardziski
15 - Simas Buterlevicius
17 - Jonas Valanciunas
19 - Aleksandar Rasic
20 - Brad Newley
21 - Arturas Jomantas
32 - Dovydas Redikas
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