Grantas Vasiliauskas has already reached a high level in his young basketball career. And the Lithuanian talent is in no hurry to leave home, even if supposed bigger clubs are waiting. Vasiliauskas hails from Alytus, a city of less than 55,000 residents in southern Lithuania. Despite being one of the country’s top forward prospects, the 17-year-old has remained in his hometown and plays for Alytus SRC, where things have gone quite well for him.
Not only has he played on loan for U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius at both the 2015 and 2016 Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT, Vasiliauskas also played for the Lithuania cadet national team last summer and reached the final of the 2015 FIBA U16 European Championship. This season he also guided Alytus to the club’s first U17 national title since 1999 as a major underdog.
“It was a great win for Alytus. We have not won the junior title in the last 17 years, so we were very happy about getting the win,” said Vasiliauskas.
Put it all together and it really shouldn’t be a surprise that Vasiliauskas has not left Alytus. “Why should I leave Alytus? I have a very good coach and am playing at a high level. I have everything I need, so all is good.” Vasiliauskas said he is in no hurry to leave home, even though it seems to be only a matter of time until a club like Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius or Zalgiris Kaunas comes calling.
Vasiliauskas picked up the game when he was 9 years old. “My father told me I should go and play basketball and I did that,” said Vasiliauskas, whose father was actually a multiple-time Lithuanian champion in rowing and competed at two rowing world championships.
“I just like passing the ball, rebounding and playing the whole game,” said Vasiliauskas, who listed Lithuanian legend Arvydas Sabonis among his role models. In the meantime, Vasiliauskas is continuing to work on his game.“I think I will play the power forward position so I need to be more aggressive and play more defense to get better.”
Vasiliauskas has already reached a pretty high level by playing his second ANGT season despite still being a year younger than most of the competitors this season. At the 2015 ANGT Qualifying Tournament - Kaunas, Vasiliauskas averaged 2 points and 1.3 rebounds. Then the 2.00-meter forward increased those numbers to 16.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists at the 2016 ANGT Kaunas.
At the ANGT Finals in Berlin, Vasiliauskas averaged 12.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists for Lietuvos Rytas, which lost to U18 ALBA Berlin in the final Group B game to miss a chance at playing in the ANGT Championship Game. “It was a tough game to lose. It’s not a very nice feeling. We were very emotional,” Vasiliauskas said. Nevertheless he said “it was really great though to get the experience.”
Even though he played a bigger role than last season, playing for Lietuvos Rytas is still different for Vasiliauskas than playing for Alytus. “Each team is different. With Alytus, I am the leader. For Lietuvos Rytas, I am just one of the major players. It is also a totally different basketball, playing at the top of Europe.”
Vasiliauskas said it was really nice playing with Lietuvos Rytas again. “Last year, Lietuvos Rytas accepted me very warmly, so this year I chose them too. And they were very welcoming again,” he said.
Vasiliauskas remains non-committal as far as where his future will take him. But that shouldn’t be a surprise given that he’s been enjoying his time at home thus far.