(By Eric Pincus - Los Angeles Times) Kobe Bryant (6'6''-SG-78) was presented with an official jersey from the Italian National Basketball team after the Lakers' 102-84 victory over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Giancarlo Migliola, press officer of the Italian Basketbakk Federation (FIP), gave Bryant the jersey after the game. The No. 18 didn't have specific significance but it read "Kobe" on the back. Bryant spent many of his formative years in Italy as his father, Joe Bryant , played overseas. The Lakers All-Star guard could be heard yelling, "Forza, Italia!" as he walked away after the presentation, which translates to "Let's go, Italy!" Witnessing the exchange was Steve Nash (6'3''-PG-74, college: Santa Clara), who met with Migliola and was presented with a jersey as well (without a number or name). Bryant has hinted in the past that he'd consider playing in Italy after he retires from the NBA.
I had the opportunity to have a little chat with the new UCC Assigeco Piacenza signing, Gilvydas Biruta (203-PF-91, college: Rhode Island). He started the season at Aries Trikalla BC in Greek A1 league. In 21 games he recorded 11.0ppg, 7.0rpg and 1.5apg this season. Biruta ended the last season at GS Lavrio (also in A1) where in 5 games he averaged 3.4ppg and 2.2rpg. But the most of that year he spent at Neptunas Klaipeda in Lithuanian LKL. In 21 games he had 3.5ppg and 2.4rpg. Biruta hel... [read more]
I had the opportunity to have a little chat with the new UCC Assigeco Piacenza signing, Gilvydas Biruta (203-PF-91, college: Rhode Island). He started the season at Aries Trikalla BC in Greek A1 league. In 21 games he recorded 11.0ppg, 7.0rpg and 1.5apg this season. Biruta ended the last season at GS Lavrio (also in A1) where in 5 games he averaged 3.4ppg and 2.2rpg. But the most of that year he spent at Neptunas Klaipeda in Lithuanian LKL. In 21 games he had 3.5ppg and 2.4rpg. Biruta helped them to make it to the Lithuanian Cup Semifinals. He also played 12 games in Eurocup where he got just 2.6ppg and 2.0rpg. Biruta has tried to make it to the NBA and played in the NBA Pro Summer League in 2015. The list of the past achievements is quite long as among others his team was regular season runner-up in Atlantic 10 in 2015. Biruta was also voted Big East All-Rookie Team back in 2011 at his college time. Biruta represented Lithuania at the European Championships U20 in Bilbao (Spain) six years ago. His stats at that event were 7 games: 5.1ppg, 2.7rpg, FGP: 46.9%, FT: 66.7%. Biruta graduated from Rhode Island University in 2015 and it is his second season as a professional player.
Hi Gilvydas and welcome to UCC Assigeco Piacenza. Can you please introduce yourself as a player? What are your main skills? Energy, hustle, toughness, I'm a "team player". What are you expecting to bring to this team in this last month of regular season? I think it's important to finish strong and I hope to bring that extra win that the team needs to finish the season strong and as good as possible.
Why did you choose to left the greek first league and accept Assigeco Piacenza offer? We save the division in Greece but at the same time we didn't have the chance to make the playoffs so there was nothing left to fight for. Italy was always a country in which I would like to try myself and my game. How well do you know italian basketball? From what I hear, it's an uptempo, entertaining basketball and something that I believe that I will love to play this style of game. I really want to try myself.
Is it your first time in Italy? It's not my first time. I've been here in Treviso, at the Adidas Eurocamp with my college and now I'm back.
How much was important to you going to a good american college like Rutgers and Rhode Island, especially in your basketball education? It was crucial, I learned a lot, I was coached by great coaches. I was fortunate end up to play in the NBA Summer League with the Denver Nuggets and the Washington Wizards. I've got experienced in college basketball and american coaching style of different level so it help me grow as a player.
A lot of lithuanian players have made their fortune here in Italy: Ksystof Lavrinovic, Kaukenas, Maciulis, Motiejunas...Biruta will be the next one? [laughing] I pray that I'll be the next one.
What are your favorite hobbies outside basketball? I only follow and like basketball. Basketball is my sport. I'm more that a geek: I like history and music.
Do you have a message to the Assigeco fans? I would like to see the crowd never empty, I really enjoying the support and to see them to show it at the games. Thank you Gilvydas and good luck for the rest of the season.