Over at the Patriot League Hoops Blog, ole Matt already has a crush on Paulius Joneliunas, the University of South Carolina kid who is transferring to American. Matt gets excited thinking about having a 6-11 guy to counter Chris McNaughton and the 7-footer Lehigh is bringing in next year. (OK, maybe just to counter McNaughton). Joneliunas not only speaks four languages (not usually an important hoops credential, but AU's roster looks like the UN. Even if he is a stiff, he can be the team's interpreter), but "He will also be the biggest player on the court for the Eagles," Matt points out.
Here at Hoop Time, we're going to take a wait and see approach. There are some things in the story in The State about his decision to switch schools that somehow seem to have activated our Neil Fingleton detectors.
Yoni, at the College Basketball Blog, picked up on this paragraph:
Joneliunas' decision means a player has left USC?s roster before completing his eligibility in each of the last four seasons. Issa Konare and Greg Taylor transferred following the 2002 season, Marcus Morrison transferred in spring 2003, and Jarod Gerald left for academic reasons following the fall semester last season.Yoni wonder if this trend says something about Dave Odom's people skills.
We think it might say more about the Gamecock's recruiters ability to judge players. Or maybe Joneliunas was one of those "you can't teach 'em to be 6-11" projects who never came to fruition. An old story from the Roanoke paper, written when he was being recruited, says not:
Division I offers aren't based on statistics or size alone.You might notice Joneliunas shrunk and inch in that story. He is 6-10 in the more recent story in The State, too, not that an inch is a big deal at that altitude.
"This guy would be a basketball player even if he wasn't 6-10," Wall (his prep school coach) said. "Somebody got him at an early age and taught him about footwork. This kid is not as athletic as some big men, but he's very skilled. He can square up to the basket and shoot it. He can pass. You don't see that with American players, as was evident in the World Championships. The foreign players are generally more fundamentally sound."
Also seemingly in a near-constant state of change is Joneliunas's weight. The high school story says 258. His his player profile page on the South Carolina site says 240. We say look at the picture in that profile. Look closely at the cheeks and the neck. Is that the look of a big, strong, low-post banger; or another long skinny three-point shooter from eastern Europe who gets pushed around in the paint?
Here's another clue: Scroll down from that picture. Read the profile:
... Framework has been a challenge, yet he has worked extremely hard at it ... Shoots the ball well facing the basket and is more comfortable inside with the defenders around ...Working to become a better one-on-one defender, a better rebounder, and a more responsible ball-handlerBut wait, it's not all bad:
Wing-span of 81 inchesLike they say, you can't teach that.
Not to pile it on, but it also says in the State:
Joneliunas’ lack of quickness prevented him from challenging for more playing time.By the way, American currently has two Lithuanians (note: Correction, they have three. Credit Matt with the assist) on the roster, though one, senior Raimondas Petrauskas, will graduate before Joneliuna suits up in the 2006=2007 season.
In the past, the Lithuanian National Team has enjoyed the patronage of the Grateful Dead, even sporting tie-dyed uniforms for the Olympic Games.
Maybe in the next Olympiad, they could just wear their AU unis.
By the way, American announced Sunday a fourth signing. This time it is a 6-5 kid from DeMatha, Jordan Nichols.
Wonder if Nichols plans to study International Relations.