Laurynas Birutis has the same long, lengthy build as Sigitas Birutis. As Zalgiris Kaunas coach Tomas Masiulis joked, “The frame is the same as his father, who also needed to put on some weight.”
The younger Birutis was one of the top performers at the recent ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT finals, which he led in blocked shots with 3.3 per game. The 17-year-old was also worth 9.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals in three games in Madrid and his average index rating of 15.7 was best among all centers. In the qualifying tourney in Kaunas, the 2.10-meter Birutis averaged a double-double with 13.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Those numbers are a drastic improvement over last season’s tournament, where he averaged 4.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks while playing for Lietuvos Rytus Vilnius.
One of the main reasons for his step forward was playing last summer at the U18 European Championship, where Birutis averaged 4.4 points and 4.9 rebounds, including a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds against Latvia.
He was also fortunate enough to play alongside Domantas Sabonis, the son of the legendary Arvydas Sabonis. “It was a great experience to play with Domantas Sabonis. He is a good player,” Birutis said.
Birutis is thankful for the opportunity to learn from his coach on the Lithuanian squad, Saulius Stombergas. “Stombergas is a good coach. He really helped me a lot. He showed me some really good post moves,” Birutis said of Stombergas, who won the Euroleague title in 1999 with Zalgiris and reached the finals with Tau Ceramica Vitoria in 2001. “He really knows the game. He was such a good player.”
Birutis also has the man who gave him his long slender frame to learn from. Sigitas Birutis enjoyed his best playing days for Siauliai in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He continued to play in lower leagues until he was 40 years old in 2005. He later played at the 2013 FIMBA World MaxiBasketball Championship, where he competed in the +45 years age group.
The younger Birutis said his father helps him and offers tips. It wasn’t until about three years ago that son finally defeated father in a game of basketball.
Despite his recent improvements, the left-handed Laurynas Birutis knows he still has plenty to work on in his game. “I am working on a mid-range shot and post moves,” Birutis said, even though he shot 52.4% from the field in Madrid.
When asked what he feels he is best at, Birutis said: “I think I am good at passing. I see our players and I see the court.”
And what about his weakest element? Birutis said: “Maybe my body. I am trying to add some weight to do better job in paint. I need to work a lot on it.”
That, it appears, must be a Birutis family trait.