Surprise from the Neris valley: welcome CBet Jonava!
CBet Jonava is the second club from Lithuania which will play in the European North Basketball league.
Lithuanian Basketball league – for sponsorship reasons known as Betsafe LKL – has established itself as a “Top 10” league in Europe.
The LKL set the new standards for its teams – such as a minimum budget, capacity of arenas, work with media – and introduced the so-called “four wheels system”.
The four wheels system means that every team has to play four rounds in the LKL with no exception.
The clubs and the local governments had to invest money in the basketball infrastructure in order to follow the new standards.
All arenas have a capacity of at least 1500, including the smallest ones at Prienai and Pasvalys.
Ten arenas have a capacity of at least 2000 and six – at least 5000 (Alytus, Panevežys, Klaipeda, Avia Solutions Group Arena in Vilnius, Šiauliai and Kaunas).
Jonava arena (capacity 2200) opened its doors on September 14, 2017 and it was a major step forward for the local basketball.
CBET Jonava predecessor – Statyba Jonava – was formed in 1969 and represented the city until 1999.
Since 1983 the team was sponsored by the Jonava nitrogen fertilizer factory.
Nowadays Achema is the largest fertilizer producer in the Baltic States but its plant was recently suspended due to growing gas and electricity prices.
The most famous Statyba Jonava players were Rimantas Grigas – a head coach of Lithuania`s women`s national team and Aistes LSMU Kaunas – and his predecessor Algirdas Paulauskas.
Statyba Jonava joined the LKL in 1994 and featured a bunch of well known players and coaches like Sydney Olympics bronze medalists Darius Maskoliūnas and Tomas Masiulis, Barcelona Olympics bronze medalist Romanas Brazdauskis and Athens semifinalist Vidas Ginevičius.
Ginevičius – a former point guard – is a assistant coach at Neptūnas Klaipeda, while Masiulis is a assistant coach of Šarūnas Jasikevičius at FC Barcelona.
Coach Ramūnas Butautas earned a silver medal at the 2003 FIBA U19 World Cup, a gold medal at the 2005 FIBA U21 World Cup and a bronze medal at the EuroBasket 2007.
Butautas also won three Latvian titles with VEF Rīga (2011-2013).
BC Jonava was founded in 1999.
Supported by the local government, it played in the Lithuanian second division from 2005 until 2021.
The team finally won the NKL championship in 2021 and – thanks to its new arena – entered the LKL.
A team from the Neris valley posted a 16-14 record to finish in the fourth place infront of Šiauliai, Juventus Utena (both 15-15) and Neptūnas (14-16).
Jonava dropped the quarterfinal series 1-3 against Antanas Sireika and Šiauliai to complete the 2022 season in the fifth place.
Recently Jonava hosted the FIBA Europe Cup qualifiers and showed a great hospitality for the participants of the ENBL technical meeting.
Jonava is coached by Prienai born coach Virginijus Šeškus.
He was a Prienai head coach three times (2004-2006, 2007-2014, 2015-2019) and was promoted to the top position at Lietuvos Rytas too (2014-2015).
Šeškus won two Lithuanian Cups (2013, 2014) before the introduction of King Mindaugas Cup.
His trophy case includes a Baltic Basketball league title (2017) and two NKL titles (2009, 2021).
During the 2017-2018 season Šeškus coached the Ball brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo, raising a significant media interest on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, despite poor results.
Šeškus youngest son – Edvinas – is a shooting guard/forward at Cbet Jonava.
Jonava opened the LKL play with a 4-0 record.
Team features an American forward Jeffery “Jeff” Garrett (Alabama 2014-2015, Northern Kentucky 2015-2018), a Latvian sharpshooter Mārtiņš Laksa and a Serb center Goran Huskič.
American guard Xavier Thames left the team shortly before the start of FIBA Europe Cup Qualifiers.