Less than a week remains until the start of the Olybet BBL Cup and the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) has prepared introductory interviews with the four participating teams. First on the list - TU/Rock.
Team head coach Gert Kullamäe told us about this year’s line-up, compared it to the roster that took bronze last year, his expectations for the team and, last but not least, the possible outcome of the BBL season. Marek Doronin, who’s played his whole career for TU/Rock, also added some insight about Tartu fans and his ambitions for the season.
Aggressive defensively, team-oriented offensively and a good team-spirit – a combination that can prove any goal to be surmountable. And this is the combination Gert Kullamäe envisions his team playing with.
After finishing last season without a true center, adding a presence inside the paint was a priority for the club: “This season one of the goals, when making the team, was to get a big guy under the basket and hopefully Petrukonis will prove us right.”
Another important change comes at the point guard position, where Tanel Sokk from Kalev/Cramo will now be taking the reins. Without doubt, both the younger players and the team as a whole will benefit from his experience playing for the national team and matching up against top-tier international teams.
Despite the fact that the signing of players came in only at the beginning of September, Kullamäe was happy with the roster he is now handling. “Considering the situation in Estonian sports right now, I am happy with the way the team has been put together – we have good players in all positions, we have young guys and we have experience, we have players with different skill sets.”
The coach acknowledged the fact that it is impossible to predict the BBL winners before the season. “When Zalgiris, Lietuvos Rytas, VEF Riga and Klaipeda do not play, all the teams left are very evenly matched. There are a lot of strong teams and the games will show who will play for the top spots in spring.”
However, that does not deter from aiming for the highest goals. Last year TU/Rock played well in both international tournaments – they earned bronze medals in BBL and were just short of the Final Four in EuroChallenge. Coach admitted that the club is certainly not looking to let up this season. The core of the team is very much intact and the club has made some noteworthy improvements over the offseason so TU/Rock will certainly not be setting the bar lower. Just like every year, the goal is to win both the national championship and the Estonian cup and build on previous performances on the international level.
Marek Doronin was also cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of the team. “This season we have to clear last year’s fumbles. We had a good season, but many desired goals were left unfulfilled in the end. We had some problems with injuries before important games, but if we manage to stay healthy, this season can surely end with a better place in all the leagues we play. But these are all just wishes and expectations - first we have to show ourselves as a real team on the court.”
Doronin was explicit that the club has the best support in the league and that fans play a key role in the team’s success. He is certain that as a team, TU/Rock will offer exciting games and will have plenty of fight in every single one of them.
It’s only a matter of time until we find out whether or not all the hopes and expectations become reality but an early glimpse of it all is already planned – the Olybet BBL Cup takes place in Liepaja this weekend, where TU/Rock will face Siauliai and either Liepaja/Triobet or Ventspils.
While the official Baltic Basketball League (BBL) season starts mid-October, basketball-thirsty fans will have a glimpse of the action a couple weeks earlier, as the Olybet BBL Cup is just around the corner! The four-team tournament takes place in Latvia this year, as the Liepajas Olympic Center welcomes you all on the 27th and 28th of September.
Saturday night will kick off with Siauliai and TU/Rock trying out the court at 17.00, followed by a Kurland derby between Liepaja/Triobet and Ventspils at 19.30.
Sunday will determine the final placement of the tournament, as the battle for third place starts at 14.30, while the headliner match-up between the two winning sides begins at 17.00.
Of the four participating teams, TU/Rock are the only ones to have finished atop of the tournament, as they were victorious in 2010. If they turn out on top this year, they would be the first team in history to win the BBL Cup twice.
Liepaja’s greatest achievement came in 2012, when they finished second, while Ventspils took home three third place finishes throughout the years, the last of them coming in 2013. Siauliai participated only in the 2012 BBL Cup and were, unfortunately, fourth.
President Cup 2008 - Riga - 1.Lietuvos Rytas, 2.Barons/LMT, 3.Zalgiris, 4.TU/Rock
BBL Cup 2009 - Kaunas - 1.Zalgiris, 2.Lietuvos Rytas, 3.Ventspils, 4.Kalev/Cramo
BBL Cup 2010 - Tartu - 1.TU/Rock, 2.Lietuvos Rytas, 3.Ventspils, 4.Kalev/Cramo
Dorpat BBL Cup 2011 - Tartu - 1.VEF Riga, 2.University of Tartu, 3.Rudupis, 4.Kalev/Cramo
BBL Cup 2012 - Rakvere - 1.Rakvere Tarvas, 2.Liepajas Lauvas, 3.TU/Rock, 4.Siauliai/Triobet
Vikonda BBL Cup 2013 - Kedainiai - 1.Nevezis, 2.TU/Rock, 3.Ventspils, 4.Prienai
Olybet BBL Cup 2014 - Liepaja - ?
The organization has prepared numerous competitions for fans, so we would like to especially welcome Liepaja residents to support their team and help them continue their good form early on. Besides, history has shown that home crowd support is vital in the tournament, as the home side has never finished below the second spot and took first place four times.
Full-day tickets cost only 3 Euros, so come have your share of basketball, witness title-winning plays and become a part of the Cup history!
After a thrilling anniversary season last year, the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) is getting ready to return its’ 11th season. This year’s competition will include 8 Estonian teams, 6 clubs each from Lithuania and Latvia, and one team apiece representing Finland and Russia.
Now that a couple of weeks have passed since the tenth Baltic Basketball League’s (BBL) season finale, let’s take a look back at the top performers, records and most impressive performances of the season in this BBL Season Review.
CHAMPS. For the first time in the club’s history, Siauliai became the Baltic Basketball League champions after grabbing two victories against Prienai with a combined 140-123 result.
PODIUM FINISH. While Prienai took silver, TU/Rock battled past BBL debutants Pyrinto to claim bronze. The series ended with two TU/Rock victories, combining for a 149-127 score.
OFFENSE. Pyrinto showed an array of offensive weapons this season and deservedly became the highest-scoring team in the league. The Finns averaged 87.1 points per game, recording four of the five highest scoring outbursts, ranging from 106 to 117 points.
BUST. While Pyrinto were simply dominant on the offensive end, Valga Maks&Moorits was ways behind. They ended up being the lowest scoring team in the whole league, as they only coughed up 57.3 points per game. While the Estonian team failed to secure a single victory, a handful of their games went down to the wire.
ADDITION. Hands down, the greatest mid-season addition in the entire league was Travis Leslie. The guard played 12 games for Siauliai and immediately made a tremendous impact. Not only was Leslie named the Finals MVP, but he also led the team in scoring with an average of 14.8 points and rebounding, racking up 7.5 rebounds per game throughout the season. He was also second in the team in assists.
SCORING KING. While Valmiera’s playoff run wasn’t very deep, Janis Kaufmanis was unstoppable throughout the whole season. The guard reached double digits in scoring in 13 of his 14 games and averaged a league-high 19.5 points per game. Kaufmanis was also responsible for the season single game scoring record as he reached 34 points twice.
BEAST. Not only was Joakim Kjellbom the top rebounder in the league, but he was also the most efficient player. The Swede averaged 15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 23.6 ranking points. The 35-year-old veteran also led the league in double-doubles with eight to his name!
Once again, all the congratulations go out to the medalists and, of course, to all the fans that cheered their teams on throughout the year. Thank you all for being with us this season!
VILNIUS ‒ It’s quite likely that Siauliai would not have been where they are without the acquisition of Travis Leslie midway through the season. The 24-year-old American has been instrumental in the team’s golden run in the Baltic Basketball League, picking up the Finals MVP award and leading the team both in points and rebounds throughout the BBL Playoffs.
BBL.net caught up with Leslie in Vilnius after a close loss to the Lithuanian league (LKL) leaders Lietuvos Rytas to talk about getting cut twice in France, coming to Lithuania in January and continuing to pursue his dream of eventually coming back to the NBA.
Two weeks have passed since the BBL Final against Prienai – are there any special feelings remaining from that game or the whole season or was all of that left behind?
It is a great accomplishment for me and for my teammates. Also, coming here from France where they cut me twice, Siauliai gave me the opportunity to showcase my skills and I’m glad I got the opportunity. I just feel we went out there and played hard and got the championship.
You snatched up the Finals MVP award as well, does that make the accomplishment even sweeter?
Yeah, definitely. I came here to play hard and win a lot of games, win championships. We got the BBL and, hopefully, we’re going to get far in the LKL too.
How was the reception by the fans in the town square after coming back with the trophy?
Yeah, it was great. A lot of people were waiting for us. Just happy that we won, congratulating us.
You joined the team midway through the season, but seem to have blended it quite well. How’s the atmosphere and chemistry in the team?
The team brought me in pretty good. When I came in, there were no problems, I learnt the plays and they just brought me in like a family and it’s all been good so far.
How do you see your stint in Lithuania – it a stepping-stone for your future career and perhaps returning to the NBA one day?
Definitely, like I said, getting cut twice and then not giving up, coming to Lithuania, playing hard and winning the championship in the BBL, being the MVP and we’re doing pretty good in LKL and hopefully we can win that. And my dream is to be back in the NBA, so I’m just going to keep working.
In Lithuania there are two top teams – Zalgiris and Lietuvos Rytas. Do you play with them with extra motivation, extra energy?
Well definitely, Lietuvos Rytas and Zalgiris are two of the best teams here. Playing against them, you’re always going to be motivated, because you’re the underdogs.
Do you feel you’re good enough to play for one of those teams?
Yeah, I think I can play in a lot of places and I’m good enough for those teams, but like I said, they didn’t give me the opportunity and Siauliai did, so I came here to play and I’ve been showcasing your skills. Hopefully, the other two teams see what I can do and the next year they may offer me a deal.
As you said yourself, you got cut twice in France earlier this season. What went wrong there?
They wanted a specific player. One of the teams wanted a shooter and I didn’t turn out to be the type of player they wanted and the other team just wasn’t a good system for me and I’m really glad Siauliai gave me the opportunity.
Can you compare the French league with the Lithuanian one?
France is much more athletic, while in Lithuania you can’t leave anyone open with bigs shooting threes. In France it’s maybe a little bit more one-on-one, which is similar to the NBA. That’s basically what it is. It’s only a little bit different.
In your mind, what’s the better route back to the NBA – playing in Europe or going back to the D-League?
I know a couple of guys from Europe, who got call-ups, like Scotty Hopson. So it can go both ways. D-League is in the States, so there’s a lot of scouts and they see you. So I think it’s both.
Talking about the NBA, the playoffs just began – did you get the chance to watch any games?
I’ve been trying to. I’ve been watching a couple of games, but others are just too late because of the time difference. I’ve caught a couple.
You were drafted by the Clippers and Atlanta is your hometown– do you support any team?
Yeah, yeah – I want the Hawks to beat the Pacers. They had a good performance in the first game and hopefully they can keep going. I don’t really have a specific team that I want to win, but I’m just want it to be a good playoffs.
PRIENAI – Siauliai became the Baltic Basketball League champions for the first time in the club’s history after handing TonyBet its first home loss of the season in Prienai on Saturday evening.
Having won the first leg of the BBL Finals by five points, Siauliai finished the task by claiming a 78-66 victory in the second game, as the Prienai side finished as runners up for the second year in a row.
TonyBet got off to a near-perfect start, going up 13-3 after five minutes of play after Zygimantas Janavicius buried a three-pointer. However, Siauliai raced from behind to take a one-point edge after the first period.
Having increased to gap to 39-36 at the halftime interval, the visitors continued their successful play in the third period, increasing the gap to 49-36 after a triple by Travis Leslie.
TonyBet managed to cut the deficit to three points with a 10-0 run and were behind only 66-63 three minutes into the final quarter. But Vytas Sulskis knocked down a pair of long-range shots, while Rokas Giedraitis added a couple of baskets of his own, as Siauliai broke away for good.
Rokas Giedraitis was the top scorer of the game, finishing the night with 17 points, Travis Leslie added a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Vytas Sulskis chipped in with 13 points for Siauliai.
Mindaugas Lukauskis was once again the key man for Prienai, collecting a team-high 15 points, Zygimantas Janavicius scored 12 points, while Vaidas Cepukaitis had 10 points and five rebounds.
TAMPERE – TU/Rock defended a 13-point first leg lead against Pyrinto and won bronze medals in the Baltic Basketball League. Trailing by three points at halftime, the Estonian club used a big third quarter to pull away and register a 74-65 victory in Tampere on Sunday evening.
Pyrinto led by as many as six points in the second quarter after Kelvin Lewis capped off an 8-0 run with a three-pointer to make it 33-27 with four minutes to go in the first half.
However, the script flipped completely in the second part of the game, TU/Rock turned a three-point halftime deficit into a 51-46 lead after winning the third quarter 17-9 behind stellar play from Timo Eichfuss.
Although the hosts had got within two points (59-57) in the final period, the Eichfuss answered with five points in a row, allowing TU/Rock to pull away once again, as the visitors cruised to an easy win.
Eichfuss finished the game with a team-high 21 points, Vincent Simpson collected 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists, while Gert Dorbek added 15 points.
Pyrinto’s guard Antero Lehto was the game’s top scorer with 22 points, while Benjamin Raymond and Kelvin Lewis chipped in with 10 points apiece.
TARTU ‒ TU/Rock made the first step towards bronze medals in the Baltic Basketball League, edging the visiting Tampere Pyrinto 75-62 at home in Tartu on Friday evening.
Having completed half of the task, the Estonian side will attempt to finish the deal on Sunday in Tampere, where will be able to afford a loss of up to 12 points.
The usually high-scoring Pyrinto got off to a good start, going up 22-19 after the first quarter of play, but their offense got into a slump and TU/Rock passed them in the second period.
Trailing 26-21, the Tartu club outscored Pyrinto 15-3 in the final seven minutes of the half and headed into the break with a 36-29 advantage of their own.
After a solid third quarter, TU/Rock’s advantage increased to 58-44, with Vilmantas Dilys and Vincent Simpson accounting for more than half of the Estonian team’s points.
Although the hosts scored only two points in the first five minutes of the first quarter, Pyrinto did not take full advantage of it, scoring only two baskets themselves.
However, the Tampere side did manage to scale down the deficit to 10 points, but a three-pointer by Janar Talts in the last seconds of the game increased the gap to 13 points.
Vincent Simpson had a game-high 20 points for TU/Rock, Vilmantas Dilys collected a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Janar Talts added 11 points.
Benjamin Raymond finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds, Damon Williams scored 16 and grabbed seven boards, while Kelvin Lewis chipped in with 11 points.
Viasat Sport Baltic viewers will have a chance to watch the last game of the Baltic Basketball League season, as Pyrinto welcome TU/Rock in Tampere in the second leg of the battle for bronze medals.
The game is set to tip off at 17:00, but the broadcast on Viasat Sport Baltic is scheduled to start at around 17:45, immediately after the end of the football game between Liverpool and Manchester City.
TU/Rock won the first meeting between the sides 75-62 and can afford to lose by as many as 12 points in the second game and still finish third in the BBL.
SIAULIAI – Siauliai started the BBL Finals on the right note, taking a 62-57 victory against TonyBet at home and will have a five-point advantage before the trip to Prienai on Saturday.
The hosts started the game better, running away to a 19-10 advantage after Julius Jucikas and Rokas Giedraitis connected for an alley-oop, capping off a 6-0 run at the end of the first quarter.
Derek Needham, who was orchestrating his team’s game well in the first two quarters, had extended Siauliai’s lead to 28-18, but Prienai cut the gap to 30-23 by the end of the first half.
After a successful start of the third period, TonyBet got within 36-33 after Mindaugas Lukauskis swished in a corner three-pointer, but Travis Leslie responded with a long-range shot of his own on the other end.
The game took an interesting turn when TonyBet’s coach Virginijus Seskus decided to go to a small line-up, playing with Arvydas Siksnius at the center position.
The change of tactics paid dividends instantly, with Siksnius tying the score at 46-all with a long-range attempt before nailing another one to put Prienai up by three.
With a 1:18 left on the clock TonyBet were still leading 57-56, but baskets by Derek Needham and Travis Leslie put Siauliai ahead, while Darius Pakamanis sealed the win from the free-throw line.
Leslie paced the winners with 16 points and seven rebounds, Rokas Giedraitis scored 10, while Derek Needham collected nine points.
For TonyBet, Mindaugas Lukauskis had 18 points and four assists, Arvydas Siksnius finished the game with 10 points, while Zygimantas Janavicius chipped in with eight points.