Playing against adults is a common method for teams to help get their young players to develop quicker. And that is certainly the case for Zalgiris Kaunas big man Martynas Echodas. The 17-year-old has spent this season playing for Zalgiris’s second team in the Lithuanian NKL second division. In 26 games, Echodas has averaged 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 11.2 minutes per game.
“This year he played 10-15 minutes in the second division. It was the first time for him to play with the adults and the year helped him a lot,” Zalgiris coach Tomas Masiulis said of Echodas, who had three games of double digit scoring, including 11 points in a playoff game in early March against Silute. “He can play one-on-one in the low post, he can jump, he can block shots. But I want him to play better defense on the three-point line and not be just a big guy under the basket. He’s improving and he wants to play basketball. So it will be okay for him.”
Echodas thinks he had ups and downs during his first season with the adults. “I thought it would be very hard and it was very hard. But at the end of the season, it was a little easier,” said the Kaunas native. “I think I performed my duties well. My defense wasn’t very good. I played against older guys and that helped me. But I still have to improve my one-on-one and play better defense.”
Masiulis has a couple of other areas for Echodas to work on. “He needs to work on his mid-range game and get more moves under the basket. And of course defense both on two-on-two and pick-and-roll defense.”
Echodas is playing in Milan as an underclass player as a 1997 born, which would mean he’s eligible to play next spring as well if Zalgiris returns. But the 2.04-meter power forward appreciates his chance to play at the Euroleague Basketball NIJT Final Tournament in Milan. “It’s very important for me. It’s a very big experience for me. Maybe it’s the only chance for me to play here,” the mild-mannered youngster said. “I learned how to play more as a team player and also my role on defense.”
Another big step in his development was the 2013 Under-16 European Championship, where Echodas averaged 12.8 points as well as team highs in rebounds (7.3 rpg.) and blocks (2.2 bpg.). “I saw good players and good centers. It was motivation for me. I tried to work really hard to be better than them.”
Now Echodas is working hard to be better than adults, which will make him better quicker.