Ronnie Seibutis, Lietuvos Rytas

Jan 16, 2012 by Javier Gancedo - Print
Ronnie Seibutis, Lietuvos Rytas
Tyrese Rice and Ronnie Seibutis celebrates - Lietuvos Rytas (photo bc.lrytas)As one of the three undefeated teams left in the competition – not to mention being a two-time Eurocup champion –Lietuvos Rytas has proved itself to be a top candidate to challenge for the title again and with it an automatic berth to the 2012-13 Turkish Airlines Euroleague. Despite having a good number of newcomers, L. Rytas completed its team early, which allowed for building good team chemistry so that the squad could perform at a high level from the very beginning of the season. None of its new faces was more familiar to Lithuanian fans than shooting guard Ronnie Seibutis, who returned to his home country after six years abroad. At age 26, Seibutis has been to the Eurocup semifinals twice – with Bilbao Basket in 2009 and 2010 – and hopes to use that experience to go all the way with L. Rytas to the Finals in Khimki, Russia. Seibutis leads L. Rytas in scoring (14.3 ppg.) and performance index ranking (15.8) so far this season. He knows that the Last 16 won't be easy, as he told us in this interview. "Lokomotiv is playing really well in recent weeks, Benetton is always at the top level and played the Finals last year and Alba won its regular season group and is having a good season," Seibutis told "This is not going to easy, that's for sure, and small details will be decisive to see who gets to the next round."

Hello Ronnie, congratulations on a great Eurocup season so far. How has it been for Lietuvos Rytas until now?

"Thanks. So far, so good! We survived the regular season without losses, so it just couldn't be any better. All teams start 0-0 in the Last 16, however, and we will face three very good teams in our group. It is not going to be easy, but until now, things have gone great for us."

You play a very important role for Lietuvos Rytas, too. How do you like being such an important player in your team's rotation?

"Well, I was willing to play an important role before signing with Lietuvos Rytas. I didn't know how many minutes I would get and everything, but I was very, very happy to be part of such a great club and basketball organization. I am seeing a lot of minutes and that is important, but my main goal is always to help the team – not only in games, but by working hard in practice too. I am happy I can help my team and hopefully we will keep playing well."

How important was your breakout year with Olin Edirne in Turkey last season in terms of confidence?

"I was in a different situation in Turkey, of course. I was one of the main scorers in the team, while here at Lietuvos Rytas, you can score a lot one night, but somebody else can do it in any game. We feel like a team; anybody can be dangerous and feel part of it. Anything can happen, someone can have a good game at any time and anyone else can step up in the next game. This is team basketball at its highest level. In Edirne, we played one game per week, but it helped me to develop my game. I was playing a lot and was important. We had a good season and it helped me to develop and be confident."

What do you think about your Last 16 opponents - Alba Berlin, Lokomotiv Rostov and Benetton Treviso?

"Oh, it is really hard. All four teams are really strong with a lot of good players. Lokomotiv is playing really well in recent weeks, Benetton is always at the top level and played the Finals last year and Alba won its regular season group and is having a good season. All four teams are used to competing at the highest level. This is not going to easy, that's for sure, and small details will be decisive to see who gets to the next round."

Ronnie Seibutis - Lietuvos Rytas (photo: bc.lrytas)Your backcourt mate is point guard Tyrese Rice, who was one of the leaders in assists in the Eurocup regular season. How do you like playing with him?

"Tyrese is a great player. I had never heard of him before, but it is a great pleasure to play with a point guard like him. He is really talented and a good guy, too. He is one of the most important parts of our team. Honestly, I can only say good things about him!"

You reached two consecutive Eurocup Finals with Bilbao Basket. Which are your favorite memories of those two seasons?

"I always remember Bilbao and stay in contact with the guys I played with – Janis Blums, Marko Banic and some others. I always follow their results and see how good they are this year. Bilbao made it to the Euroleague Top 16 and I don't feel there is great distance with the club since I left. I have great memories of those two Eurocup seasons, going to Turin, beating Zadar in the quarterfinals and finishing third in Vitoria the year after that. All those are good memories."

You were very close to winning the Eurocup, too. Does it give you extra motivation to try to win it with Lietuvos Rytas?

"How can I put this...? I am always motivated, basketball is my life and I don't need any extra energy. Like our coach says, if you need some motivation to play basketball, the game that we love, something is wrong. We try hard to give our hearts in every game and to go for a win. It is something that is inside you."

After so many years outside Lithuania, how does it feel to back in Vilnius on permanent basis?

"It was kind of strange in the beginning, because I had been out of my country for six years. I used to pack my stuff every summer and come to Vilnius. Everything changed one day and suddenly I had to stay! It is a great feeling to play basketball in my country. Vilnius is a great city and Lietuvos Rytas is a great team that has played at the highest levels for the last 10 years or so. It is good for me to come back home and develop my game here. I feel I can help – and that is what I want to do."

What would it mean to win the Eurocup for the first time?

"It is too early to talk about winning or losing the competition. Of course, we will try to give our best to make it happen and are going for the biggest goals available. Still, we need to be focused in every game and get as far as we can, take one game at the time and see where that leads. I hope you can ask me this same question again when the season is over. It would be a good sign!"