Cota departs for Lithuania

As Ed Cota boarded a plane for Kaunas, Lithuania yesterday to spend a second season overseas, <I>Inside Carolina</I> caught up with Jason Levien, who is representing the former Tar Heel floor general.

After not participating in any of the NBA's summer leagues last month, Cota agreed to a contract with Kaunas Zalgiris, a Lithuanian club that has been the home of eight current or former NBA players, including Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis and former UCLA star Tyus Edney.

"We looked closely at a few NBA teams and had serious interest in having him participate in training camp with the Celtics and Nets," Levien said. "Ultimately, Ed did not receive any guaranteed offers."

Cota, a 2000 graduate of UNC, spent last summer with the New York Knicks' summer league and preseason squads, but was released in October after seeing only limited action.

"By the time he was released [by the Knicks] he missed out on more lucrative offers overseas," Levien said. "This time, he did not want to lose the financial opportunity. Ed hopes to get another shot at the NBA over the next year or two, but is also interested in financial security."

And his new contract will help him achieve that, as it's valued at over $400,000. According to Levien, Cota also received offers from teams in Greece, Poland, Italy and Israel.

Last season, Cota was named by an overseas publication as one of the ‘Top 15 Americans Playing Aboard.' He averaged 15.5 points and 4.2 assists in 22 league games last year, helping to lead Telindus (Belgium) Oostende to the Belgian League crown. He also played in the international Euroleague tournament with Oostende, averaging 14.6 points and 5.1 assists in 8 games. He'll return to the popular Euroleague event this coming year with Zalgiris.

In his first year out of North Carolina, Cota played with the CBA's Gary (Ind.) Steelheads, averaging 14.2 points and 4.9 assists.

"During the off-season, Ed still resides in Chapel Hill and has relied on the advice and counsel of both Coach Smith and Coach Guthridge," Levien said. "I spoke to Coach Guthridge to get his perspective prior to Ed agreeing to the deal in Kaunas, and he was quite supportive."

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