Petravicius caps road to stardom as Final Eight MVP

Apr 06, 2009 by Javier Gancedo, Print
Petravicius caps road to stardom as Final Eight MVP

There are those basketball players who are thrust into stardom, while others put in blood, sweat and tears to accomplish their goals. Marijonas Petravicius is a perfect example that hard work leads to success. On Sunday Petravicius led Lietuvos Rytas to its second Eurocup title, earning Final Eight MVP honors in the process, and at age 29 he is at the prime of his career and considered one of best big men in European basketball. Few people would have said that when Petravicius finished his college career at the University of South Carolina in the United States with averages of 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds nor when he was badly injured in 2005 playing for Telindus Oostende. Petravicius’s life changed when he joined L. Rytas and was given the chance to battle against some of the best centers in European basketball. In his third season with the club, Petravicius stepped up at the right moment with 23 points on 11-for-15 shooting against Hemofarm Stada in the semifinals, including a critical layup in the final minute. Then in the title game, Petravicius had 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting and 7 rebounds to lead L. Rytas to the Eurocup title. Petravicius is not only a star big man, but also a silent leader for his teammates on the court as well as an even-tempered and well-mannered man off the court, always generous with his time to attend the press or meet his fans.

Petravicius has not always been a star. He started his career at small clubs like VJSM and Silute in his native Lithuania before moving overseas in high school to attend New Hampton Prep. His stay there led to a scholarship to play college basketball for South Carolina, where he joined forces with current teammate and 2008-09 Eurocup MVP Chuck Eidson in their four seasons with the Fighting Gamecocks. Petravicius was a rotation player at South Carolina and averaged only 19 minutes per game in his senior season back in 2003. After college, Petravicius returned to Europe and first played for Mitteldeutscher Basketball Club in Germany. Petravicius took part in the FIBA Europe Cup and proved his value in the competition, averaging 13.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He produced 28 points and 7 rebounds in the final against Dijon in leading Mitteldeutscher to its first European title and earning MVP honors in the final. Petravicius joined Oostende for the end of that season and opted to stay in the team for what he hoped would be his breakout year in 2004-05. Things did not go as planned, however, as he underwent surgery in the pre-season and was injured again once he recovered. Petravicius would miss the whole season as his career took a twisted turn.

Latvian League champion Ventspils took advantage of the opportunity and signed Petravicius him once he was available. He did well there, averaging 9.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in his ULEB Cup debut season. Petravicius also won the Latvian League with Ventspils, once again earning MVP honors, and finished the season helping Al Qadsia of Kuwait at the Asian club championships. Petravicius joined L. Rytas in 2006-07, helping his team to win the Baltic League and reach the ULEB Cup final. Petravicius made his Euroleague debut last season and proved his value, averaging 12.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in 17 games. Despite his strong season, L. Rytas came up short in the Euroleague Top 16 and fel to rival Zalgiris in the Baltic League, Lithuanian League and Lithuanian Cup finals. His great season did allow Petravicius to take part in the 2008 Olympic games, helping Lithuania to make it to the semifinals.

After what was a dream season last year, things have gotten even better. Even though L. Rytas lost Matt Nielsen before the start of the season and Branko Milisavljevic prior to the Last 16, Petravicius remained the club's top option in the paint. He scored the game-winning basket in a critical victory over Kalise Gran Canaria to secure a spot in the Last 16 and continued his consistent production throughout that phase. Petravicius took his game to a higher level at the Final Eight. He first scored 12 points in the quarterfinal game against Benetton Basket Tamoil, but then Petravicius showed he is made for big games with his 23 points against Hemofarm Stada in the semifinals, including a key layup down the stretch. He kept L. Rytas alive for the best part of the title game against Khimki and once his team won the title in come-from-behind fashion, Petravicius was chosen as the Final Eight MVP. To put it mildly, Marijonas Petravicius was one of the main reasons that the team that was first to step onto a Eurocup court this season -L. Rytas hosted the opening game - was also the last to leave.