Hoops tour thrills

FRANK ZICARELLI, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

The crowd was supportive and energetic and the on-court product was surprisingly good.

There were fans both young and old cheering every made shot and shots that would rim in and out.

It was that kind of feel-good atmosphere at St. Mike's last night as the host Blue Raiders played an exhibition basketball game against a touring team from Lithuania.

With Toronto's proud Lithuanian community in attendance, they got a rare chance to see players from the Sarunas Marciulionis Basketball Academy display their fundamentals.

DEEPLY ROOTED

Basketball in Lithuania is deeply rooted and several countrymen have played in the NBA.

Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis are perhaps the two most famous to play in the world's premier hoops league, paving the way and providing inspiration for a new generation of would-be NBAers.

Evaldas Zabas spent seven years at the Marciulionis Academy before he and his family moved to Canada last year. A Grade 9 student at St. Mike's, Zabas relished every moment last night.

"It was so good going to the academy because you learn so many skills,'' Zabas said.

"I will remember it for my whole life. Now, for me to play my team, my academy, is very exciting."

Members of the touring Lithuanian team heard of Zabas and immediately acknowledged his abilities.

"I don't know him personally,'' Adomas Adomaitis said. "You can see he was from the academy. He's a leader, his style, he's fast and he shoots the ball well."

Attributes that neatly describe Adomaitis, who led his team to a 65-56 win over St. Mike's.

The Lithuanian tour ends tomorrow with a 3 p.m. tip at Father Henry Carr Catholic School.

On June 28, an under-19 select team will travel to Lithuania, where friendships will again be forged and memories relived.


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