NBA big men Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis headline Lithuania’s 12-man Olympic basketball roster announced Saturday.
Lithuania, one of the best Olympic men’s basketball nations of the last 25 years, lost five straight Olympic semifinals from 1992 through 2008. It was beaten by Russia in the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals.
Lithuania qualified for Rio by beating 2014 World silver medalist Serbia in the EuroBasket semifinals Sept. 18 before it lost to Spain in the final.
Valanciunas, then 20, was the youngest player on the 2012 Lithuanian Olympic team that included NBA veterans Sarunas Jasikevicius, Linas Kleiza and Darius Songalia, all of whom are not on the Rio Olympic team.
Valanciunas averaged 11.2 minutes per game in London but grew into his nation’s most valuable player at EuroBasket, averaging 16 points per game in last year’s tournament.
Sabonis, the 20-year-old son of longtime Lithuanian star Arvydas Sabonis, is the youngest player on this year’s Olympic team. He was the No. 11 overall pick in the NBA Draft on June 23. He appeared in four of nine games at 2015 EuroBasket.
Lithuania was one of three nations to beat the U.S. at the 2004 Athens Olympics (Puerto Rico, Argentina) and played the U.S. the closest of any nation at Sydney 2000 (two-point loss) and London 2012 (five-point loss).
The U.S. routed Lithuania by 28 points in the 2014 FIBA World Cup semifinals.Follow @nzaccardi