Thursday, 31 May 2012

SA Basketball part III final


The 1951 season was Vytis’ best.  Last year they lost only three games throughout a 23 game championship, plus the Adelaide Baltic Cup tournament, plus the championship of Australian Lithuanian clubs and plus interstate friendly matches.

In the championship Vytis started with a loss to OBI, which left the Lithuanians trailing a new ALS (Latvian) team until the end of the first round, when they met ALS and beat them.

In the second round the Latvians turned the tables and let the field until the last match of the third and final round with one loss only.

In a dramatic last round match Vytis defeated ALS by one point.  Vytis trailed for most of the game but won by paralysing burst of attack in the last 10 minutes, a feature which has characterised many of their matches against first class opposition.

Even on wins with ALS (19-2), Vytis was declared minor premier on percentage of won and lost goals.  During the minor round Vytis shot 1103 points (a record for SA), losing 575, the second team ALS, show 1011, and losing 528.

In the semi-final Vytis beat Estonians and in the final downed ALS boys, who were evidently dejected after their unfortunately defeat in the last game of the minor round.

Throughout the season Ignatavicius scored 343 and Urnevicius 305 points, a splendid tally which was surpassed only by 6ft 5in Latvian Juris (George) Dancis, who shot 380.  Peter Sutton (OBI), fourth on the list with 287.

In 1950 Vytis, although premier, had been defeated by Latvians in the Baltic Cup competition.  In 1951 the Lithuanians made sure to score a double victory.  They played copy book basketball to defeat Estonians 58-37 and then overwhelmed Latvians in a trilling match by 49-42.

This last match was a classical example of Vytis variable style and excellent powers of adaption.
In the first half the tall Latvians watched the fast dangerous Vytis forwards closely.  Gurskis used to score eight points with surprising long distance shots, a remarkably tally for a guard.

In the second half Latvians neutralised Gurskis, still maintaining a few points lead.  Then Urnevicius, seeing that everything was orthodox had failed, produced some beautiful hook shots that he had seldom done before.  

This brought the Latvians off balance and in the ensuing confusion the untiring Jaciunskas clinched victory by fast breaks.

Four Lithuanian teams from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide held a carnival in Adelaide and Vytis won again, defeating Melbourne in the final, although the Victorians fielded all Australian team player Dargis.

Owing to the split with SAMBA early in 1951, none of Vytis players were considered for the SA side in 1951, as they were registered with the ABL.

That was why they missed out on the Perth carnival, where an inferior SA team did not have a hope of seriously troubling either Victoria or NSW.

When the SAMBA has finally affiliated ABL, Vytis will not be overlooked by the State selectors when they start looking for a State side, 1952.

Having plenty of speed and stamina, Vytis usually play the man to man defence.  They can employ the zone defence, but it is not their favourite.

Looking superficially, it might appear that only speed and accurate shooting account for Vytis victories, yet the interwoven team spirit must not be overlooked.  Without it a great team may finish on the rocks. 

It is not enough to merely have five good payers together – only when they cease to be five separate men and become one team will they start on the road to success.

Vytis has that team spirit and the boys are also thorough sportsmen to other players.  They could hardly be more popular both with their adversaries and the public.

That is perhaps the most important thing which makes Vytis a great credit to South Australian basketball.  Even though the idea of ‘fair play’ was not invented in Lithuanian, the Lithuanians have adopted it quickly enough.

Sport Novels June 1952 Vol 13 no.3

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

SA Basketball part II


Most of the Vytis players have known each other since 1947, when they played in Wuerzburg, Germany.

Stasys (Stan) Urnevicius, the captain (who at 31 is the oldest of the team), learned basketball in Lithuania in his early teens, played in his college team, later for the Vilnius University and finally in the renowned LFLS team.

In Germany he lived in Wuerzburg, where Kestas Jaciunskis (born 1926) was captain of the junior team.  Virgilius Gurskis (now 21) was also there, but just learning to play.  Later Algimantas (Algis) Ignatavicius (now 20), from Schweinfurt, joined the juniors.

In Adelaide those four, although having arrived at different times. Met each other again and formed a team. By 1951 they had been joined by Nikolaj (Nick) Brovcenko (22), Vitas Merunas (30), Edvardas Kurauskas (32), Anatolijus Kitas (25) and Eugenius Pyragius (20).

The first five are; Urnevicius (right forward), Ignatavicius (centre), Jaciunskas (Left forward), Gurksis (left guard), Brovcenko (right guard).

Urnevicius (5ft 10in) is the brain of the team.  He has the onerous job of being playing coach.  He commands remarkable respect, not only form his own boys, but also from players of other clubs.
What he says goes.  His court craft is excellent.  He knows all the tricks of the trade and also how to keep the team together; when to take time outs and when to decide on fresh tactics.

His medium distance one handed shots from the shoulder are deadly.  Yet he feels that are is gradually catching up with him and that he has no more than one or two competitive seasons left.  Then he will switch to coaching alone.

Ignatavicius (5ft 10in) is the youngest and most admirable player.  His improvement has been unbelievably rapid.  In 1947 he could hardly get a place in a junior team.  In 1950 he was chosen in the all Australian team.  He plays a very elegant, fast game, dealing out quick passes and shooting goals effortlessly form anywhere over the centre line.

He seldom touches an opponent.  Most of the time he is on the move, having developed a dislike of congested places on court. However, when the going gets real close, he can fight like a tiger at the basket and he can leap high to snatch rebounds from opponents much taller than himself. 
In 1950 he was the most successful goal sneak in the association and second best in 1951.  Shortly after the 1951 season ended, Algis left for Melbourne to play with a Lithuanian team. However, it seems that he has not found things entirely to his liking there, and will be back in Adelaide before the 1952 season is over.  Just as well, otherwise his team might find it difficult to get a substitute for the vacant centre forward post.

Jaciunskas (5ft 10 in) is the team ‘tank’ but a mighty fast one.  His stamina is seemingly inexhaustible.  At the final bell he will going just as strongly as during the first minute.  His control of the ball is enviable, his fighting spirit unquenchable.

He is always where the ball is, following it in the roughest tumble.  He is an excellent medium distance goal shooter and from underneath the basket will score with his eyes closed.  His fighting heart sometimes earns penalty shots against him, but that is his only blemish.

Gurskis (6ft) is one of the staunchest and stablest SA guards.  He is Vytis vice-captain and it is amazing that at his age he should display such coolness, anticipation and presence of mind in the firmest battle.  He knows exactly where to expect a rebound form his own board and once he has put his fingers on to the leather he will never let go.  It just sticks to him.

Most feared are his accurate long distance shots, which often force a defending team to send a man forward just to prevent Gurskis from making what would be ‘pot shot’ for most players but is a  2 to 1 on certainty for Gurskis.

Brovcenko, at 6ft 1 in, the tallest man in the team, has also developed remarkably.  In 1949 he provided the spectators with tons of fun because of a little cap he wore which would inevitably fall off during a scramble.

Within 12 months he had turned into a fully fledged guard, strongly supporting Gurskis and shattering the early conception that Vytis was playing a ‘four men’s game’.

The solid veteran Kurauskas, the tall agile former Western Australian Merunas, the fast footballer Kitas, the quick witted, technically flawless Pyragius, constitute Vytis first reserve who may soon gain a permanent place if Urnevicius retires or studies compel Brovcenko to withdraw.

But when they move up, others will take place of first reserves as Vytis has a second team and many youngsters keen to improve.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Did Lithuanian's change the shape of basketball in South Australia?

This article, written in Sport Novel in 1952, may answer that.  Its quite long so I will post it in parts.


New Australian Stars Give new life to SA Basketball

Since the war ended not only the popularity but also the standard of men’s basketball has risen steadily throughout Australia.

Considerable influence has been exercised by European players who began settling in this country late in 1947.  South Australia has received its share of them and the standard of basketball in Adelaide is only slightly behind Victoria and NSW, the traditionally strong eastern states.

Among the ablest exponents of the game in Adelaide are Lithuanians.  Their club, Vytis has won the premiership twice, in 1950 and in the SA Men’s Basketball Association an in 1951 in the Adelaide Basketball League, the recently formed body.

Will they be able to make it a hat trick?  It is quite possible, but it is going to be a mighty strong team which can wrest the premiership from them.

When in 1935 the Latvian National team won the first European basketball championship Lithuanians scarcely played the fame.  But the big success of their small neighbouring country stimulated the Lithuanians.  They imported several American trainers and set to work wholeheartedly.

Within two years the incredible happened and Lithuanian won the 1937 European championship.  Ever since, basketball has been regarded as the national game.

Take two dozen Estonians and you will most certainly be able to pick a volleyball team, take two dozen Poles, Czechs, Jugoslavs or Hungarians and you will be able to form a soccer team; take only one dozen Lithuanian boys and you will be able to pick a top line basketball team with ease.

The Vytis Club was formed in Adelaide in 1949.  At that time it numbered only half a dozen players.  They were put in C grade and they outclassed all their opponents so effortlessly to win the premiership in  a canter that next year the team applied and was admitted to the A grade.

It was rather unorthodox move, but it turned out to be invaluable for the benefit of the game.  The very first rounds in 1950 showed that the Vytis boys even outclass some of the A grade team.

Throughout the season there was a neck to neck race between Vytis, Our Boys Institute and YMCA (with Latvians as the backbone).  Vytis won the minor round from YMCA, with OBI third and Kingston fourth.

In the semi-finals Vytis beat OBI and Kingston defeated YMCA, who had a black day.  Vytis forwards combined at will, shot for goal at will and scored one of the easiest victories on record.

The brilliant showing by Vytis resulted in four of their boys, Ignatavicius, Urnevicius, Jaciunskis and Gurskis, being chosen to play for the SA team to play in Brisbane Australian championships.  Unfortunately Gurksis and Urnevicius could not go for family or business reasons.

The SA side finished third, behind Victoria and NSW.  The biggest reward was the inclusion of the 19 year old Vytis centre forward Ignatavicius in the all Australian team.  The boys returned from Brisbane high in spirit and determined to make an even better showing in the 1951 season.

To be continued....

Sunday, 20 May 2012

New Years Celebrations 1958

New Years Ball, Adelaide. from left; B. Lapsys,
Bachunas, A. Linkuvicius
The next day the Bachunai rose early so they could fit in meeting more members of the community. The first visit of the day was to Vladas Požela, who was with the Lithuanian Ministry of Home Affairs during president Griniaus time in Lithuania.  They visited Pozela’s son-in-law Vytas Kmitas who works in one of Adelaide’s largest firms, O’Connor and Sons heating and cooling specialists.

He also met Juozas Gučius, an actor and manager of Lithuanian Theatre group.  He worked for many years at the Kaunas radio station, as director an actor.  His wife, Gučiene Binkevičiutė, is also a professional singer and singing teacher.  Gučius showed him several programs of past performances, that were held in Lithuanian and English.  The theatre group has performed Henri Devernois, The Bronze lady and the Crystal Gentleman, and Box and Cox, the Proposal, the school for wives.  All the actors were Lithuanian and the plays performed in English.

Baciunas was told that on December 1st, in the Australian Hall, violinist Pranas Matiukas gave a performance with singer Uknevičiutė.  There are three singers, B. Rūkštelienė, Gučiene, and Vasilauskienė.  Rūkštelienė has since moved to America.

From here the Bachunai  visited Rūdaičius, then Jonas Kalvaitis, who has three brothers in America.  Jonas has contemplated moving to Boston to work with his brother in real estate, but he now has grown children who are not keen to move.  Bachunai then visited Vaclovas Raginis, and later Česlovas Zamoiskis, and Vytas Petrūskevičius.

Lapšys took the Bachunai to visit a well known Lithuanian pilot and glider, Major Jonas Pyragius. His daughter was a well known sports woman, now married Mrs Cibiras. 

Bachunas learnt about the local church newspaper, ‘Šventadieno Balsas’ Sunday Voice.  The newspaper is edited by Father Kungys, with drawings added by Pušdešrys, and it is printed in Dičiunas home.

New Years Eve was celebrated at Centennial Hall, Wayville.  The Women’s association had spent all day preparing food, they were expecting over 500 guests.  There was a good band, everyone danced and enjoyed themselves.  Before the evening finished the President of the Community, Čibiras welcomed in the new year, and invited Bachunas to speak.

The following morning they rose early, and were taken to the airport for a flight to Sydney.
So ended their Adelaide leg of their tour to Australia.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Journey to the Pacific Region III

December 30th


Bachunas spent some time with members of the Adelaide Lithuanian Women's group.

On March 1, 1952 a Lithuanian Women’s group was formed. The groups role was to generate social occasions where Lithuanians can meet. Another function was to visit the sick in hospitals. The women would take food, sweets or special dietary food and have a chat to the sick. The group would send money twice a year to German sanatorium in Gauting.

The women have instigated several new traditions in Adelaide. The Christmas ‘Eglutė’ for children, where Father Christmas visits and gives each child a gift, followed by a communal meal. Each New year or Mother’s day, women over 70 are honoured and presented with a gift. The women assist in preparing lunch each Saturday for the children attending Lithuanian school. Children who take first communion do so in a decorated church and partake in a meal afterwards prepared for by the women.

Not one newborn into the community did not receive a gift or those who died did not receive a wreath from the Women’s group.

In 1957 the women had collected £600, this was profits from balls, lotteries and donations. All the women’s time were freely given. The president is Garbaliauskienė, other committee members, Janavičienė, Varnauskienė, Navakienė, Šerelienė.

Bachunas referred to the Women’s group as the heart and soul of the community.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Journey to the Pacific region continued


On December 27th they were invited to lunch at Lapšys, who drove them around. They then attended the children’s Christmas celebrations organised by the Women’s guild. The children all received presents and presented the Baciunai with a song, that they had rehearsed. The choir had around 30 children organised by Vasilauskienė. The children also danced, taught by Grėbliunienė and Lapšiene. Many of the children were born in Australia.

That evening there was a party at Vytautas Linkus house at Port Adelaide. Linkus has his own business a food products shop at Port Adelaide, “Linkus World Food”. He was then invited to visit Vasilauskas at 36 roomed hotel at Semaphore . Vasilauskas owned several other properties, used for holiday rental.

Sunday December 29th, Dičiunas drove them to church where over 300 Lithuanians had gathered. After mass Father Kungys said a prayer for Lithuania independence. After the service had finished Father Kungys drove them to Dičiunas’ home for lunch. Dičiunas has built a lovely home, next to his sister lives. After lunch they were driven to Christies Beach where the church had purchased a block of land which has a small building. A pleasant afternoon with song and food was occurred. The Baciunai were then taken to Pascevičius’ home where more Lithuanians had gathered. Pascevicius, an engineer had designed a elevator that can lift 1,500,00 bushels. The lift is built in a factory by the sea, where over 150 people work.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Journey to the Pacific Region

With an occupied Lithuania, the President of the Lithuanian World Community was as close as anyone would get to  Lithuanian royalty.  In 1958, Juozas Bačiunas or Bachunas was elected in this role and in 1958/59 he and his wife journey to Australia. He visited most capital cities and met with many in the Lithuanian community.


They arrived in Adelaide on December 26th and were greeted at the Adelaide airport by members of the Lithuanian community with flowers and girls in traditional costumes. Povilas Lūkošiunas organised the Adelaide leg of their holiday. Lūkošiunas treated the couple to tea where the priest Kungys and other members of the community gathered.

On the 27th they went to Lithuanian house where the house was full. Being a hot day, it was like a sauna inside. President of the community S. Kibiras gave a talk on the community and its organisations. The number of Lithuanian community groups made an impression on Bachunas.