Lithuania is a small country, with a population of less than three million people. But its a big basketball power in Europe.
Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd is tapping into that talent base again this season with two talented freshmen.
Paulius Murauskas and Motiejus Krivas were friends and teammates in Lithuania, and are now again with the Wildcats.
The two played for Zalgiris II in the second division of Lithuanian basketball, as well as for the national team. The two committed to the University of Arizona during the same week earlier this year.
We was like communicating with each other every day, What you gonna do? Murauskas told KGUN. We wanted to commit to the same place.
Hes my guy, Lithuanian. We play in national team. We play against each other, like when we was kids. I know him since 12 [years old].
First weeks it was a little bit hard because of homesickness, said Krivas. But now its, everything good Every day you have like a friend by your side, you can talk and it just helps.
It also helps to have a Lithuania-to-Tucson pipeline.
Azuolas Tubelis, Arizonas most productive player last season, is now off to the NBA. But his twin brother Tautvilas is still studying at UArizona and around the program.
Tautvilas, hes also a really good friend, said Murauskas. Hes helping us because last year he was here. So he knows everything.
Sophomore big man Henri Veesaar is from nearby Estonia and played against Murauskas and Krivas in Europe.
Hes almost like our brother, you know? said Murauskas.
Veesaar says Lloyd is the right coach for all of them.
He knows how to talk to European players. Were a little bit different than Americans, said Veesaar. He just keeps it 100, like real with you. He doesnt try to lie and like overextend it. Just does a great job of being honest with you. You know what youre gonna get.
The Wildcats are going to get a versatile wing in Murauskas and a skilled 72 center in Krivas, whose shot blocking already on display in practice.
The two Lithuanians say the American college game moves a bit faster than European basketball, but Lloyd is downplaying the transition.
I guess Ive done it so long and so many players go through it that I really dont think of it as anything other than normal, said Lloyd.
As they adjust to their new normal, Murauskas and Krivas can lean on each other.
An amazing feeling to have someone like this by your side, said Krivas. It just helps even more.
STAY IN TOUCH WITH US ANYTIME, ANYWHERE
Download our free app for Roku, FireTV, AppleTV, Alexa, and mobile devices. Sign up for daily newsletters emailed to you Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Twitter