After talking to Estudiantes’s Adams Sola, Future Stars has caught up with two of his very young teamnates, Dovydas Giedraitis and Nacho Arroyo. The story of both players are familiar for thousands of young players who are in the transition period between being a successful junior and fully fledged professional. Undoubtedly both Nacho and Dovydas are in the right place to successfully emerge as professional players but the next 12 months will determine whether they can establish themselves in the world of professional sport.
You are from a country where basketball is almost a religion. Lithuanian basketball has a tremendous tradition in developing young talent, but you decided to move to Madrid. Why did you decide to continue your career at Estudiantes?
I came here with my dad, who was a professional basketball player, and we liked everything there, starting with the coach, team, facilities and ending with the city – Madrid. So, when we returned we talked about the situation here in Lithuania, and where is better for me to develop as a player and I started my next life chapter in Madrid.
You averaged almost 20 points in the EBA and at the age of 18 you made your first appearance in the ACB. Can you tell us about you first experiences at Estudiantes?
Movistar Estudiantes is doing a really good job with young kids and creating great facilities for them to get better and better every day. In the EBA league with coach Zamora l had a freedom, I could do whatever I wanted and that helped me to grow a lot as a player. The first practice here in Movistar Estudiantes I remember really well, because it was a lot harder than what have ever seen. Coach was pushing us all the time, we had to pressure the ball all the time, running up and down for 2 hours. I had to take my time to get in their rhythm. Those practices led me to my first ACB appearance.
Could you reflect on your experience of working with Coach Javier Zamora who has great experience in working with young players?
Coach Zamora is tough. He gets from his players what he needs and every practice was pushing us to our limits. Zamora showed me a lot and I want to thank him for every second I spent with him on the court.
During the very dramatic final of the U16 European Championships in 2016 you met your current teammate Adams Sola. Was this important in the process of settling down at Estudiantes?
At first when I came to the Estudiantes try outs nobody recognized me, only after the video of the final, some players started to talk: “oh thats number 9, who scored on Admas””. We have a great relationship with Sola, we are always trying to push each other as hard as we can, sometimes we laugh about that game and what happened there.
Could you update us on the state of your health. Recently you were nursing quite a serious injury. Are you completely ready to play now ?
I had a problem with my hip/groin, but the all the people responsible for Movistar Estudiantes players healthcare did a great job to put me back on the court as soon as possible and I’m healthy right now.
You are very fortunate to be at a club which traditionally allows young players to play important roles at a senior level. What are your goals for the immediate future at Estudiantes?
Its a big opportunity for me, to show what I’m capable of doing on the court, the coach has trust in me and I need to do the best I can and help the team on the level that we know we can play.
Does the fact that Estudiantes had a very difficult season in the ACB and avoided relegation thanks to the CoVid-19 crisis make your situation much more difficult?
I’m still a young player and my role is to help all the main players get some rest, but I think next season will be my “key season”, because all clubs will have less money than they normally they do, so there is a chance I will get more minutes.
You came agonizingly close to winning Gold in the U16 European Championships and also winning bronze in the U19 World Championships. Could you reflect more on your career with the Lithuanian Junior national teams?
U20 is cancelled and it was supposed to be in Lithuania, which is disappointing. It’s hard to lose games like the U16 final or battle for bronze with the U19. But I think those moments only makes us stronger and tougher for our career, all those close games, last second shots are unbelievable. We are in contact with the team players all year long, keeping the relationship great. The experience we had in training camps, all the time we spent together on court and off the court was amazing. I have only good memories with national team.
We can’t avoid questions about the current situation in the world. How do you cope with the current situation with the Coronavirus pandemic? You are back in Lithuania right now, what is your daily routine? How your family is doing?
At first it was a little bit scary, but as soon as more information is coming the more calm I am. In Lithuania, the situation is not as bad as other countries. Although there is a quarantine everything is calm. I’m trying to workout everyday at home, I also have studies to complete and I’m happy that I have some more time to spend in the kitchen. My family is doing perfect, everything is calm and people are not over reacting.
You spent a season in the US playing at San Diego Catholic Highschool. However you decided to move to Europe instead of continuing your career in the NCAA. Please explain the reasons for choosing Estudiantes?
The main reason was that Spain was a better option for me and Movistar Estudiantes is known for developing young players and when I was I able to visit the club I realized that it was better than where I was in the US.
Could you tell us more about your early days in Chile? While countries like Brazil and Argentina are famous for producing basketball talent, Chile is relatively unknown on this market. How strong is junior basketball in Chile in your opinion?
I started playing when I was 6, I played in local leagues, but I played soccer too. When I was 13 I decided to focus on basketball and started taking it more seriously. In Chile, basketball is not very strong, they don’t compete consistently but I think that we have good players with talent but there is no process where they can develop their abilities.
At the young age of 19 you became the first Chilean playing in the ACB arguably the second strongest domestic basketball league in the world. How that was received in your own country?
The world of basketball received it very well congratulating me, it appeared in some newspapers.
Talk to us about your adaptation period at Estudiantes. How difficult was it for you to find your place in a foreign country and in a club which finds itself in a pretty difficult situation in the ACB?
The adaptation period for me was easy my teammates and coaches received me well and always helped me and that made everything easier for me.
Coach Alexandar Dzikic has given you a debut in the ACB but after his departure you are working with Coach Zamorra who knows you very well from your junior competitions and also has tremendous experience in developing young talent. Providing that he will stay with the club for the next season, how do you see your role in the team in the next seasons?
Coach Dzikic gave me some minutes and I just try to do what he asks me for which is to give energy and press the ball and Coach Javier Zamora was the one who brought me to Movistar Estudiantes so he knows me very well, we have a great relationship but I know if a want to play I have to earn the minutes in practice.
You belonged to a very talented and successful group of Chilean players. In 2017 you have won the U17 South American Championship beating Argentina in the final. Could you reflect on your experiences with the Chilean Junior National team?
It was a great experience. It didn’t happen that long ago so my memories are still fresh. I developed a special bond with my teammates, wining with your friends is even more special. For me playing for Chile is everything.
Last year you started to play for the Chilean senior team in FIBA America qualifiers. How does playing on the international scene against teams like Canada develop your game?
Obviously it makes you improve as they are experienced senior players and the game is much more physical.
How do you cope with the current situation with the Coronavirus pandemic? What is your current daily routine? How is your family in Chile doing?
It is a difficult situation, but I’m facing it with calmly and responsibly. I get up in the morning for breakfast I do a stretching and core routine then I spend time with my mother. We watch movies or I play PS4 and then in the afternoon I do the routine that the club’s physical trainer sends me and after that movies or PS4 again. My family is fine, my mother is with me in Spain and my brother in Chile is fine with his girlfriend, so we are all good.