By Algimantas Bruzas

Last weekend at Alytus sports and recreation center was held U17 Lithuanian final four where home team Alytus SRC led by tournament standout Grantas Vasiliauskas ('99) became the champions of U17 Lithuanian championship.

At semifinal game Alytus SRC overcame 15 points deficit by 16-2 run and defeated V.Knasius KM 71 to 65 which was without injured Aidas Zitkus ('99). At the second semifinal A.Sabonis KC confidently beat their fierce rivals of S.Marciulionis academy (SMKA) 75 to 69.

Surprisingly Alytus SRC won tough final 79 to 69 against Sabonis KC and became champions of the tournament while SMKA won bronze final 67 to 49 against Knasius KM.

Without any doubts, the most valuable player of the final four was Alytus SRC leader Vasiliauskas which posted 26.0 points, 40% FG, 13.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 7.0 turnovers, 3.0 blocks and 23.5 efficiency averages per game.

Left positive impression:

Grantas Vasiliauskas ('99) was the biggest standout of the tournament. In regular season 6'8''Alytus SRC leader posted 27.0 points, 13.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 28.1 efficiency per game. Dominance by his body and versatility over his age he proved in the final four too. Started with 8 points, 3/12 FG and 5 turnovers at the first half of semifinal Vasiliauskas inspired his team to run 16-2 in a second half and finished game with 25 points, 10/28 FG, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks. In the final game, he started to involve his teammates more, made some important shots and finished with 27 points and 9/19 FG. He played 5 at defense and 1 at offense, often organized his team offense and tried to push his team by shooting lots off pull-ups in 1 on 1 situations. Most of Vasiliauskas points came from far mid-range and 3pt area. Despite great body parameters he was not very familiar with post game often tried to avoid contact most trusted his shot from outside the paint. Vasiliauskas is a face-up big man who has great handles, average first step, and explosiveness can shoot from anywhere. However, his shooting form is too mechanic while his decisions on offense often are too predictable. While the body and technical attributes allow him to be creative often he chooses simple pull-up after few dribbles to solve problems on offense. Lastly, it's worth mentioning his tendency to disappear on defense and sometimes lack of concentration in box out situations. Nevertheless, he is a great talent with leadership qualities and he proved that in crucial situations of this tournament.

Haroldas Rokas ('99) was very important Vasiliauskas fellow at Alytus SRC who played consistently and effectively in both matches (17 points, 6/14 FG and 6 rebounds at semifinal, 19 points, 7/17 FG and 7 rebounds at final). 6'3'' small forward has a strong body but lacks explosiveness. Rokas is a player who founds himself in the right place at the right time, has great IQ. Limited athletic abilities, average finishing with a left hand, shortage of dribbling moves and slow shooting form complicates his opportunities to stand out from others but with great IQ and smart decisions he balanced Alytus SRC offense when Vasiliauskas often tried to force things.

Laurynas Balkunas ('99) was the third leader of Alytus SRC. He is a prototype of aggressive, jumpy slashing guard who doesn't shoot from outside. Balkunas is a 6'3'' guard who likes fastbreaks. He initiated lots of Alytus SRC fastbreaks and sometimes finished them from end to end. Problems of ball handling he compensated by his quick first step and explosiveness. Most of the points he made were from drives and cuts to the basket. He avoids shooting from outside and has poor shooting form. Balkunas showed that he's a combative player who posted 19 points and 9/12 2PT at semifinal and dominated boards at final: 10 points, 6/10 2PT and 10 rebounds. He was shown for his character, won lots of loose ball situations.

Lukas Uleckas ('99) was a very interesting player at final four. Sabonis KC leader is a 6'5'' two-way shooting guard who can organize the offense. By his plasticity and high basketball IQ, he reminds Ramunas Siskauskas. His main weapon is great shooting form and ability to catch and shoot from outside. However, he made only 3/14 3PT at final four. His abilities to read passing lanes and correct defensive stance allows him to be dangerous on defense. Opponents must pay attention to him all the time. Despite poor shooting he was consistent in scoring: 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 steals at semifinal and 17 points at final. Those numbers he posted because of his abilities to handle the ball, drive to the basket using quick first step and finish with creativeness but often avoiding contact. However, sometimes you could feel that Uleckas team needed more leadership from him at crucial moments.

Ignas Sargiunas ('99) started his performance at final four by finishing the drive to the basket dunking over an opponent -at the pic-. 6'4'' wing has great explosiveness, strong body and jumping ability. His main weapon is the ability to drive and finish with a right hand. However, you can't say same about his abilities to play with a left hand. He can bring energy and aggressiveness to the game but lacks shooting from outside abilities. At semifinal, he posted 18 points, 7/12 FG, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. At final, Sargiunas showed great effort in the third quarter and finished the game with 16 points, 5/16 FG, 10 rebounds and 3 steals.

Domantas Vilys ('00) was a very intriguing player at final four. Just before this tournament he received most valuable player of International team at Jordan Brand Classic award. So despite the fact that Vilys was younger than his opponents he had something to expect. From the start of semifinal 6'2'' point guard stood out by his high basketball IQ and abilities to control the game. He was not shy from important plays at crucial moments too. Two Vilys three-pointers got back SMKA to the game at the fourth quarter of semifinal. He finished first game with 15 points, 2/7 3PT, 5 assists and 5 steals, but was not so bright at bronze final: 12 points, 2/7 3PT and 3 assists. However you could see his unique talent and it will be very interesting to see how he develops in the future.

Left neutral impression:

Marius Valinskas ('99) was one of the Sabonis KC leaders in semifinal posting team-high 20 points, 8/13 FG and 3/6 3PT. He made serious damage to SMKA by one on one and pick&roll plays. 6'1'' point guard has good handles but lacks the ability to control the game and find open teammates. Valinskas has nice shooting form but really struggled at the final game: 5 points, 2/16 FG and 0/7 3PT. He can be dangerous by his signature step back jumper in one on one situations but because of his weak body, lack of explosiveness and jumping ability he often struggles to finish drives to the basket. Valinskas is an interesting player but needs to improve athletic abilities.

Lukas Kisunas ('99) like Vasiliauskas stood out by his body. 6'9'' SMKA center with a big body is not a clumsy player but lacks the feel of defense near the basket. He started semifinal by a dominating performance in the first quarter when he posted 10 points and became a real problem to Sabonis KC short frontline. When the opponents started to pay more attention to him, real problems of post game stood out. He can make hook shots with both hands but because of lacking feel of the opponent body makes unnecessary movements, made some mistakes trying to do a spin move. He finished semifinal with 18 points, 8/9 FG and 8 rebounds but at the second half rarely had a chance to score. Same problems were visible at the bronze final when he posted 12 points, 4/8 FG and 4/10 FT. However in that game, he dominated the board with 18 rebounds (10 offensive).

Yauhen Massalski ('99) was the second big man of the best frontline of the tournament of SMKA. 6'8'' number 4 is a rebounding machine. In both semifinal and bronze final games he posted 29 efficiency rating because of outstanding rebounding: 16 rebounds (6 offensive) at semifinal and 20 rebounds (9 offensive) at bronze final. He has a lean body with long arms, has coordination but lacks post moves, ability to shoot and other attributes which can make him more dangerous scoring threat.

Left negative impression:

Tadas Vaiciunas ('99) was the leader of SMKA all season long. While he finished regular season posting 19.4 points and 38% 3PT, final four was a disaster for him. He made only 4/27 3PT and showed real problems of ball handling. 6'6'' small forward is a shooter who has a short memory. He quickly forgets misses and moves on. While this may be a good quality, it also can lead to desperate forcing which was the case in both games of the tournament. Vaiciunas has a nice stroke, but problems arise when he tries to drive or dribble the ball generally. He has quite a strong body, but his movements are not smoothly. He lacks explosiveness, has defensive stance problems. However none of these weaknesses didn't stop him from posting team-highs in scoring: 20 points and 6/18 FG at semifinal and 16 points and 7/28 FG at bronze final.

Vitalijus Kozys ('99) was destined to be a leader of Knasius KM because of Aidas Zitkus ('99) absence. 6'6'' big man who can play small forward is strong but lacks explosiveness. He knows how to get the ball at the post, can shoot from anywhere and can drive with a right hand. But all these qualities most of the time at this tournament were absent when he became the main object of his team opponents defense. In both semifinal and bronze final games he played under expectations: 11 points, 3/15 FG, 1/3 3PT, 15 rebounds and 5 turnovers at semifinal and 11 points, 3/13 FG, 2/9 3PT and 10 rebounds at bronze final.

Twitter of the author: @BruzasA