Toronto Raptors’ newest addition making a splash on the international stage

Toronto Raptors’ newest addition making a splash on the international stage

Image: Luke

He’s big, white, has suited up for the Lithuanian national team for three international tournaments since 2008 and took home the gold medal and MVP award on all three occasions. Any guesses? The answer is none other than the Toronto Raptors’ first-round draft pick Jonas Valanciunas! What’s more, at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Latvia on Sunday, Valanciunas dropped 36 points, as well as eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals to lead his team to gold, cementing his status as one of the brightest up-and-coming stars in international hoops. We suspect Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo is sitting somewhere smiling smugly (while simultaneously breathing a heavy sigh of relief).

The Toronto Sun has more:

Valanciunas has now led his country to the gold medal at the European U16 and U18 tournaments and now, the world U19, earning tournament MVP each time, believed to be an unprecedented feat.

He led this event in scoring (23 per game), rebounding (13.9), blocks (3.2), double-doubles (seven in nine games for 7-2 Lithuania) and was second in field goal percentage to Canada’s Dyshawn Pierre.

He showed just about everything the Raptors were hoping for when they picked him fifth overall.

While we were immediate supporters of the Valanciunas pick, most of the media horde routinely ripped Colangelo’s gamble—causing a certain short-fused Raptors blogger to apparently scream in horror. But if the FIBA tournament is any indication, the hardnosed 19-year old centre will do just fine when he debuts stateside. And with a lockout expected to jeopardize the upcoming NBA season (the most optimistic estimates call for games to begin in January), Raptors fans should be more than happy to let Valanciunas develop.

Sure, we know that when the performance of a new rookie in an international junior competition is (by far) the most exciting development on your local team, it’s a sign of bad things to come. But you have to walk before you can run. Or, you know, make the playoffs.

Lots to like about Valanciunas [Toronto Sun]
Save Raptors fans, Jonas Valanciunas, you’re their only hope [National Post]
• The Jonas Valanciunas coming out party [The Score]