December MVP Birutis: "The NBA has always been a dream"

Laurynas Birutis, one of Lithuania's top young big men, is earning his stripes with top-notch performances this season. The 20-year-old Center, secured medals in both the U-18 and U-20 level, won the NKL MVP award last year and is adding the BBL Player of the Month honors this time around.

 

After a wobbly start to the season, the 20-year old Lithuanian picked the pace up and finished the year with some MVP-worthy performances, and four-of-four wins for his club. Birutis averaged 16.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.0 blocks per game throughout the month.

BBL.net sat down to talk with Laurynas, touching numerous topics.

Laurynas, every single person I talked to about you, would have pretty much the same response – "he was well-mannered, would never put himself above the rest and would work tirelessly during practices". It seems you're now reaping the rewards of all your hard work. What do these awards mean to you?

Well, the trophies always come when you're putting in an honest effort. I've always tried to work hard and it's important for me to keep my head down and continue doing just that – step by step I might get somewhere. Obviously, it's always nice to get some recognition, it adds motivation and just shows that I'm on the right path.

Your dad played a great part of his career in your current, your hometown club – Siauliai. Could it be said that you grew up with it during its so-called bronze age? Do you consider yourself a fan of the Siauliai club or does your heart already belong to Zalgiris, with whom you have a long-term contract?

I was very very little when my dad still played, so I don't remember much. But from what I've been told, I would always be in the arena, in a way supporting my dad. It's a shame I don't have any vivid memories. But to be fair, both Siauliai and Zalgiris are close to me and I support them both.

At the moment Siauliai is one of the top three teams in BBL, you're steadily heading towards the Play-offs in the Lithuanian league. How does it feel to be finally bringing back victories to Siauliai? Has the basketball atmosphere in the city changed?

I would say so – the team went through some rough years recently, but it's getting better. More fans come to enjoy the games – obviously it's more fun for us, when they come out and support. We try to repay them with victories.

You played your last BBL home games in Pakruojis and Joniskis, another game in Radviliskis awaits. What is your opinion on this initiative by the club? How is the support different than when playing in Siauliai?

I think it's a terrific initiative – perhaps the people in the region can't come to our games in Siauliai, but we're happy to go and see them and bring some entertainment. Definitely, I rate it very positively! The support has been great too – the arenas were much smaller, but they were packed. It's fun, hopefully we get the same support throughout the tour.

I have heard that you usually stay after practices to shoot three-pointers. However, you've attempted just one long-range shot throughout the season. How's your shooting in practices and when can we expect a Laurynas Birutis three-point showcase during a game?

To be honest, I don't quite know - I take three-pointers during scrimmage games too – sometimes I make them, sometimes I don't. You know, it's interesting – I just don't seem to find the opportunity during a regular game. I'd like to get one or two to fall in for sure, but I'll wait for my chances.

That gets me to my next question – which part of your game do you feel like you've improved most during the summer and throughout the season? Where do feel like needing to put an extra effort to be able to play at a higher level?

Most? I've improved my mid-range game game, I can finally shoot from a bit further away. There's nothing specific I tend to focus on – I just try to improve everything and just advance as a player. Of course, I need to strengthen my body and gain experience, but those come with time. Quite frankly, you can always improve every part of your game, I don't think you can ever reach perfection.

Speaking of a higher level, the NBA Draft is closing in. Have you decided whether to participate this year, or are you still considering your options? Do you feel like you'd even want to play there?

Oh no no, I haven't thought about it too much. I'm just focusing on this season and being the best player I can be, putting an extra effort to improve. Nevertheless, the NBA is naturally a dream for every basketball player. It's the highest level of competition and of course I'd like to try my hand at it.

Do you follow the NBA season and do you have any favorite team or player?

Honestly, I watch Euroleague more. The games in the NBA start very late, so I just watch the highlights the following day. I pay more attention during the Play-offs though. My favorite team would have to be the San Antonio Spurs and I do enjoy watching Pau Gasol go to work – he's a great player and a great person to match.

Finishing off with a question that would not be so serious - one of your former teammates told me they'd given you the nickname of Buzz (Bazas). Can you explain how it came to fruition and what nickname do you go by in your current team?

I think it was just that one teammate who would call me that and I'm not quite sure why! I know exactly who you're talking about though! My nicknames now are a bit simpler – they either call me Lauris or Biras.