Mazutis: "We’re getting ready to stop the whole team"

Andrius Mazutis has been one of the cornerstones to the success Liepaja/Triobet has had over the past year, as the 33-year-old playmaker leads the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) the league in assists. spoke with point guard from Mazeikiai, who is averaging 7.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, about the season so far, his first basketball steps and the team’s chances in the Playoff duel against Latvian rivals Jekabpils.

Andrius, congratulations with the achievement! Clearly, becoming the best assistant is a tough task to accomplish. Are these kinds of awards something you hold valuable or do you take it more like a message that you’re on the right track?

Thank you for the appreciation. At this point in my career, I don‘t really pay that much attention to awards like these. This year I‘ve really had great teammates, who can all knock down their shots. All I have to do is get them the ball at the right time in the right place and they know what to do. Of course, our coach’s schemes are very handy for me, since I’m usually the guy leading the ball to the hotspots. All I can say is that I appreciate this award more as a team, not a personal, achievement.

Liepaja/Triobet has performed marvelously this season, both in the Baltic and Latvian Basketball Leagues. What has been the key to this success?

Work, work and more work. We push ourselves in practice every single day and the results are apparent. This was only the first half of the season and everything will be sorted out during springtime. Only then we’ll see which team chose the right path.

Although this season seems to be unfolding well, throughout the club’s 22 years of history, Liepaja has yet to win a title in the LBL or BBL. With the current roster, which, as we’ve seen, is capable of some great things, what are the adjustments or improvements in the game that have to be made to finally change history?

Every player has to improve both individually and team-wise day in and day out. If we honestly do our homework, results will surely surface. Even if they don’t, at least it won’t be hard to look each other in the eye, knowing that we’ve done everything that was in our hands.

Let’s take a minute to look at your next opponents, Jekabpils. You’ve already played these guys twice in the LBL, splitting a victory each. And despite that, Jekabpils is still far below in the league standings. What do you know about this team and what can we expect from this matchup?

Despite the current standings, the battles between these two clubs are always intense. Jekabpils were haunted by injuries in the first part of the season, maybe that’s why their results are a bit worse than last year. This might be something that motivates them though, so we can‘t expect any easy games.

Rinalds Sirsnins is a clear leader on that team and has a deadly, and an extremely high volume (3.8/9.4 per game, 40%) three-point shot. Will limiting his long-range scoring opportunities be one of your personal goals in these two games?

We play in the same position so naturally we’ll have the most micro-duels. We’re getting ready to stop the whole team, not just individuals. The tactical decisions will be in the hands of the coach, but of course, we’ll pay a bit more attention to their leaders. One of them will be Rinalds.

Let’s talk a bit more about you personally. When you’re growing up in a basketball-crazed country like Lithuania, it’s probably hard not to get pulled into the whirlpool. How, when and why did you take on basketball? Who was, or maybe still is, your basketball idol?

I started playing at the age of five. During those times, Zalgiris and CSKA match-ups drew country-wide attention. That, perhaps, was the initial push to take up basketball. Talking about Lithuanians, I loved seeing Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis play, while Michael Jordan was my favorite worldwide.

I believe it’s safe to call you a journeyman. Throughout your career you’ve played for a lot of different teams in a lot of different countries, ranging from Lithuania to Azerbaijan, Turkey and Belarus to name a few. What is the one season that was most memorable? And what is the one basketball related memory, you cherish most?

I couldn’t point out a specific season, since they all left a mark in my life. The losses made me stronger, the victories added self-confidence. I met a lot of different coaches and players who became important pieces of my career. If I had to remember one single moment, episode of my playing days, it would be the final playoff game between Nafta Mazeikiai and Siauliai. We were leading by three points with five seconds on the clock and we couldn’t manage to foul them. They drained a three-pointer and took the overtime victory.

You are no spring chicken anymore, having already played professionally for a decade and a half. What does the future hold for you and are there some unfinished business, unaccomplished goals you would like to take care of before it’s all said and done?

I live by the day right now. All I want to do is give it my all to get Liepaja all the possible victories.