Basketball: Gudaitis ends Klaipėda’s NBA draft drought

Lithuanian Artūras Gudaitis has been granted an opportunity to play in the NBA
DELFI (R. Achmedovo nuotr.)

The 22-year-old center has been selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 47th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft off back to back LKL (Lithuanian Basketball League) titles.

During his three seasons with Žalgiris the 208cm (6’8”) tall center averaged 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds across his 57-games.


Earlier in 2011, Gudaitis represented Lithuania in the FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship where he would score 27-points against Croatia, before knocking off Poland for 5th place.

Gudaitis joins Arvydas Macijauskas as the only two Klaipėda born men to be drafted in NBA history after the former Olympian was selected by the New Orleans Hornets where he would play 19 games in the 2005/06 season.


Philadelphia officials were thrilled to have the Lithuanian, touted by the press as the most promising International born in 1993, after also selecting 19-year-old college sensation Jahlil Okafor (3rd) and Richaun Holmes (37th).

The franchise rounded off selections with shooting guard J. P. Tokoto (grandson of Cameroon football great of the same name) and Serbian Luka Mitrović who claimed a Bronze medal at the FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship by scoring 9-points before a vocal Kaunas crowd.


Headed by former Australian national coach Brett Brown, the 76ers will to scalp their first NBA championship title since 1983 when the season commences on Tuesday, October 27.

Earlier in the draft, Latvian Kristaps Porziņģis was selected by the New York Knicks with the third pick under the guidance of franchise president Phil Jackson who is an 11-time NBA champion coach.


Sadly, the 19-year-old power forward was booed by bewildered locals watching on at the Barclays Center, New York – many of which expected to welcome Okafor to the big apple.


Nevertheless Jackson believes his talent scouts have made the right decision.

“The reward is great, the risk is great, too,” Jackson told the New York Post.


“The reaction in the crowd is what you anticipate in New York, but he’s aware of it. He’s very much intelligent. He’s going to face an uphill battle but he’s willing to take it on.”

Though Porziņģis was initially a draft prospect last year he withdrew last minute in order to implement some extra work on his game with Spanish club Baloncesto Sevilla.


As a result, the 212cm tall teenager won the Eurocup Rising Star award earlier this year joining previous winners Jonas Valančiūnas and Donatas Motiejūnas.

The coastal connection continues as Porziņģis becomes the first NBA player from the city of Liepāja.


Though Latvia injected many basketball talents for the Soviet national team between Olympic campaigns the Baltic nation has only produced three NBA players since the end of the Cold War.

Riga born talent Andris Biedriņš was a regular for the Golden State Warriors throughout the last decade before a final season with the Utah Jazz.


Gundars Vētra may have only played 13-games during his 1992/93 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, still a fine effort for the boy from Ventspils.

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