Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius is in good position to challenge for a Top 16 spot and one of the reasons for that has been the play of 25-year-old small forward Rokas Giedriatis. An energetic player who helps the team in many ways, Giedraitis has been putting up big numbers as of late and as he continues to improve, he regularly bring the Rytas faithful to their feet with his dunks, intensity and clutch shooting. His father, Robertas Giedraitis, was also a professional player who stills holds several Lithuanian League records. Rokas has a different style of play, even though he tries to follow his father’s footsteps. "I am a different player than my dad, who was more defensive-minded, a great defender, a point guard who played for the team," Giedraitis told EuroCupbasketball.com. "I try to play for the team, too, but with a different role. I am a shooter, so I need to shoot the ball."
Hello, Rokas. Congratulations on beating Limoges. It was a team win with five scorers in double digits. How important was not only the win, but the fact that a lot of players contributed?
"I think that it was an important win for us. We needed it because the previous week we had a good chance to beat Lokomotiv Kuban at home, but lost that game. It was also important that a lot of players scored many points. Still, the most important thing is the victory."
You have been playing really well, too, after a first game in which you were scoreless. How comfortable do you feel on this team right now?
"I feel very good, really, from the first preseason day when we started practicing. I feel really good; I may have had bad games, but right now, I feel really good. We just need a couple more wins and we’ll be really close to making it to the Top 16."
You had one of your best games against Partizan in Belgrade. How did you like the experience of playing at Pionir Arena?
"It is very tough for every team to play in Belgrade, but I had a good day. I made the first couple of shots and believed in myself because like you said, I played my first game against Bilbao and was out of shape, I don't know why. I knew that my team was going to need me in Belgrade so I tried to play better and everything was okay."
Now that you have played against every opponent in the group, what do you think of this group? Did any player or any team impress you?
"I think every group is difficult. There are no bad teams and everybody is strong. It is hard to play in the EuroCup and every win is important for us if we want to go to the next round. We need to win at home and catch some wins on the road. We need a couple of wins and it is going to be okay. Lokomotiv is a very good team, a EuroLeague level team. We played against them and they played really good basketball. I know they are a good team that wants to go back to the EuroLeague."
At age 25, you are still young. There are three EuroCup champions on the team - Arturas Jomantas, Mindaugas Lukauskis and Jimmy Baron. How do they help you get better every day?
"Not only they are helping me, but everybody else. They tell you where to stay on defense, how to play on offense. Of course, Coach also won the EuroCup three times, and it is very good to have Lukauskis, Jomantas and Baron, who are experienced. For us, the young guys, it is important to have these players."
Your father was a defensive specialist, one of the all-time leaders in steals. How did he help you become a basketball player?
"My dad tried to teach me to be better and better, how to play. He is now a coach and I tried to listen to him as much as I could. I am a different player than my dad, who was more defensive-minded, a great defender, a point guard who played for the team. I try to play for the team, too, but with a different role. I am a shooter, so I need to shoot the ball."
How important is it for you to continue their legacy, to have a Giedriatis on the court for so many years?
"It is important for us, for the family, because we live for basketball. I started to play basketball when I was two or three years old, that is when I started dribbling around with the ball. It is great for our family to have someone playing basketball for so many years. My brother does not play basketball... so I need to do it!"
Lithuania is basketball country like no other. Who were your heroes growing up and why?
"My dad was one of my heroes, and also Mindaugas Zukauskas. I got to know him as a person and grew up with him. When he played in Siena, we went there to see him play and how he lived. He was a very good player, a shooter and a good defensive player."
Looking around in social media, it seems that you like UNO, the card game, a lot. Is it Rytas's first choice on long trips? Who is the best player on the team?
"Right now, we are not playing UNO! We play cards a lot, but not UNO. If you ask me who is the best card player, that is Arturas Jomantas. If we talk about poker, then it’s Jomantas, 100% sure!"
What will be the key for Lietuvos Rytas to stay alive in the competition; what do you need to do well?
"I think we need to do the same we did in good games: play with a lot of energy, play hard and try to do what coach tells us to do. That's it! We need to believe that we can win and if we do, I think everything will be okay and we will win enough games to make it to the Top 16."