Time to play – Jocyte and the rise of Lithuanian women basketball

Summer 2019 was very fruitful for Lithuanian youth basketball. As usual, and even they did not get any medals as they commonly do, the boys finished high in the standings of the European Championships they competed in – Under 20 finished 5th in Tel Aviv (Israel), Under 18 won the 7th – 8th place final in Volos (Greece) while the Under 16’s managed a decent 9th place in Udine (Italy). However, the purpose of this article is not to talk about the Lithuanian boys; the girls started to make waves in the European basketball in the younger age group categories and this is what we are going to look at.

And this discussion will start with the young Lithuanian sensation Juste Jocyte, who, at a very young age of 13, made her debut for Lithuania Senior National Team in a FIBA Women’s Eurobasket 2021 qualifier against Albania in November 2019. This came as a consequence of a great performance in Sofia (Bulgaria) last summer in the FIBA European Championship Under 16 Division A competition, when she contributed to the silver medal won by her country after an impressive display – 19.6 points per game (leading scorer of the whole tournament) in 29 minutes spent on the floor (on average), with some nice percentages too (81% at free throws shooting and 34% at three points!). With a 20.4 efficiency per game (2nd in the competition), Jocyte was joined by fellow Lithuanian teammate Audrone Zdaneviciute (fourth-leading scorer with 16.7 points) in the All-Star Five of the tournament.

The Under 18 managed to maintain their Division A status after winning in the decisive matches against Bosnia and Herzegovina (69-63) and against Serbia (66-65) in Skopje (North Macedonia). Center Simona Visockaite was the top performer of the whole competition when it comes to efficiency per game (with a score of 21.9) while she added 11.7 rebounds and 15 points per game after playing 34 minutes on average – and she did all of this while shooting 87.5 % from the free-throw line and 51.2 % from the field!

Last but not least, Lithuania U20 women finished 11th place in Division A (in Klatovy, Czech Republic) with three wins and four loses. Livija Sakeviciute, the 1.90 cm center, was the tournament leader in blocks category with 2.4 blocks per game (while averaging 29.2 minutes per game). Interestingly, six players from this team (Saule Mikelionyte, Dominyka Paliulyte, Gabija Segzdaite, Egle Zabotkaite, Enrika Matiukaite and Dalia Donskichyte) featured in the Lithuania Under 18 Women team that won the gold medal a year earlier in Oberwart (Austria) in the Division B European Championship (86-71 in the final against Belarus) – see photo 1.

For sure, you will hear again about most of these players. With appropriate investment and resources allocated, the youth women basketball is making progress. And without doubt, the future looks bright for Lithuanian women basketball.

by Alex Radu

Photo: jorono from Pixabay 

Alex Radu is a Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching Basketball at University of Worcester (England/UK). He has coached various teams at different levels of the game at both club and national team level, including: Cardiff Archers (Associate Head Coach – in WBBL/Women Basketball League, UK); Worcester Wolves (Assistant Coach – in BBL /British Basketball League, UK); Romania U20 Women National Team (Assistant Coach) and Romania U18 Women National Team (Assistant Coach – at European Championship Division B); Wales U20 Men National Team (Head Coach) and Wales Senior Men National Team (Assistant Coach – at European Championship for Small Countries); Romania Women National Team (Assistant Coach – at Women Eurobasket 2015).