Lietkabelis returns to the 7DAYS EuroCup after a two-season absence with a renewed roster ready to be more competitive. It managed to keep head coach Nenad Canak and a core of Lithuanian players while adding five new faces to its roster. Lietkabelis found a new point guard in Kyle Vinales, a well-rounded player ready to make his EuroCup debut after stops in Tunisia, Cyprus, Estonia and his native Puerto Rico. His adjustment to a more demanding playing level will be critical to Lietkabelis's success. The club also strengthened its frontcourt with four new players: forwards Troy Barnies, Gytis Masiulis and Erikas Venskus, as well as center Marin Maric, who led the 2019-10 Belgian League in rebounding. Drawn into a very demanding Regular Season Group C, Lietkabelis must find the right chemistry to be as competitive as possible right away.
Vinales is expected to see most of the playing time at point guard. He is a quick playmaker who uses his outstanding ballhandling skills and quickness to be effective in many ways, whether scoring, finding an open teammate or getting to the foul line. Vytenis Lipkevicius is an experienced swingman who won five Lithuanian League titles with Zalgiris Kaunas. His experience and defense will be important for Coach Canak. The Valinskas brothers, Paulius and Marius, provide depth and energy. Paulius is a tall combo guard with great athleticism, who is set to start at shooting guard. Marius will backup Vinales, offering court sense and intensity. Margiris Normantas will try to open the court with his shots from downtown and shut down opponents on defense. Jokubas Gintvainis is an interesting player, an athletic point guard who returns to Lietkabelis after stops in Germany, Spain, Lithuania and Poland.
Masiulis arrives to Panevezys in search of playing time to fulfill his great potential. A star at youth levels, Masiulis is slowly but steadily transitioning into a strong forward by improving his shooting range and being more aggressive. His quick first step, passing skills and overall effectiveness will allow him to keep improving, now with a critical role on a EuroCup team. Barnies and Venskus will also see plenty of playing time at forward. Barnies is a team-oriented player and a good rebounder who can help Lietkabelis in many ways. Venskus arrives on loan from Zalgiris and is one of the top prospects in Lithuania, a mobile big man with great post skills and willingness to power the offensive glass. Maric is an old-school center who is effective around the basket and able to rebound well on both sides of the court. Gabas Maldunas will be his backup, while forwards Tadas Vaiciunas and Paulius Poska will fight for playing time throughout the season.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Masiulis has a great opportunity to prove his value and show he can become one of the best big men on the continent. His father, Tomas Masiulis, was a EuroLeague champion with Zalgiris in 1999. The younger Masiulis is a natural talent who knows how to use his size and skills to score around the basket and battle for rebounds. Throughout his years in youth categories, he was able to improve his three-point shooting and free throw accuracy, thus adding more weapons to his game. Masiulis needs to get physically stronger to be able to bang in the paint against older and more experienced opponents, but it is a matter of time for him to achieve that goal. His talent, high basketball IQ and feel for the game make him an interesting player to follow.
Lietkabelis made it to the Top 16 in the 2016-17 campaign. It was its first appearance in the competition and remains its best result in the EuroCup. Of course, challenging for a Top 16 spot will be Lietkabelis's initial goal this season. It will not be an easy task as Group C is full of powerhouses. Being strong at home is a must for Lietkabelis, which needs Vinales, Maric and Masiulis to adjust to their new team quickly to be ready to compete since Game 1: against Virtus Segafredo Bologna at home, no less.