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.

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