Lithuanian Forward Commits To Cal


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Ben Braun had to look a little further for help this time.

Less than one week after the Cal men's basketball coach inked Gabriel Hughes, the younger brother of current Bears center Solomon Hughes, to a National Letter of Intent, Braun globe-trotted all the way to Europe to come up with his latest catch.

Saulius Kuzminskas, a 17-year old native of Vilnius, Lithuania, signed his own letter of intent Saturday to play for Cal next season and become the second member of the Bears' 2000-01 recruiting class.

The 6-foot-11, 220-pound forward/center attended former NBA guard Sarunas Marciulionis' basketball school in Vilnius, and averaged 2.9 points and 1.7 rebounds in 15 games this season with the Sakalai Vilnius team. He is a member of the Lithuanian Junior National Team, and was the youngest player on his Vilnius team. Kuzminskas will not turn 18 until May 30.

While his stats with Vilnius are not staggering, Kuzminskas' has made his presence felt on the national team.

The Lithuanian juniors competed at the European Championship for Junior Men preliminary tournament last week in Greece. Kuzminskas led his squad to a third-place finish and averaged a team-best 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. He also shot over 47 percent from the field. The Lithuanians went 3-2 in the tournament, and will join Latvia and Italy at the European finals in Croatia.

"Saulius is a highly skilled post player who has the ability to step out and knock down the mid-range shot," Braun said. "He has a nice touch and good agility for a big guy."

Braun hopes that the addition of Kuzminskas will enable the Bears to rely less heavily on 6-foot-7 Sean Lampley on offense. The junior power forward was Cal's only offensive option at times, especially in the post. In order for Lampley to slide over to the small forward spot, where he would match up better with opponents, Kuzminskas' development is crucial.

"(As) a young player, (Saulias) has a chance to really improve," Braun said. "He helps fill a need as a skilled player on our front line."

The Bears now have four players on their roster that stand at or over the 6-foot-10 mark. Kuzminskas joins the Hughes brothers and 6-foot-10 center Nick Vander Laan as Cal's tallest frontcourt members.

The Bears are still awaiting word from power forward Travon Bryant, from Jordan High School in Long Beach, Calif. The highly coveted recruit lists Cal and Missouri as his top two schools and hopes to decide on a college when he receives his latest SAT scores this week. Bryant has yet to qualify.

Braun said at the end of the Bears' postseason run in the National Invitation Tournament that he would like to sign two power forwards this recruiting season. With the inking of Hughes and Kuzminskas, the coach has three scholarships left to offer.


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