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....

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