Biruta Excited for U20 European Championships

With most Rutgers student-athletes enjoying a little time off before jumping into summer classes, rising -sophomore post Gilvydas Biruta has plans overseas. Biruta, who won the Outstanding Newcomer Award at the men's basketball team's banquet last month, is on his way to Europe to compete for Lithuania in the U20 Championships...

Gilvydas Biruta, who left Piscataway today for his hometown in Lithuania, is going to miss one thing more than anything else while away from Rutgers University.

"I'm going to miss Rutgers because that's the place where I got better and became who I am," Biruta said last night while preparing for his flight. "Most of all, I'll miss Coach Rice yelling at me."

"When he's yelling at you, he's teaching you and making you a better player. He makes me want to prove myself."

Biruta will be away from the Scarlet Knights until mid-August to compete in the U20 European Championships for his native country of Lithuania.

The rising sophomore can't wait to go back home, he said.

"I'm extremely excited," he said. "I get the opportunity to play with my former teammates and represent my country. It should be fun and I can learn a lot."

Head coach Mike Rice, who released a statement after the news became official, is just as excited for his starting post player.

"This is a great opportunity for Gilvydas," Rice said in a statement. "He did everything we asked of him this past season and more. He will face a high level of competition at the European Championships and it will aid in his development. We have no doubt that Gilvydas will be a tremendous ambassador for the Rutgers basketball program."

In his freshman year with Rutgers, Biruta was best among Big East newcomers in field goal percentage (.529), rebounds (5.6) and free-throw percentage (72 percent). Biruta started 31 games for the Scarlet Knights this season and finished second on the team in scoring with 9.6 points per game.

Biruta said he can't wait to show his hold friends how much his game changed.

"I haven't played with these guys in three years," he said. "I'm excited to bring the things I learned from Coach Rice and the coaching staff. I'm much better now than I was.

"I think they'll be surprised at how much better I am. I'm stronger and I have a new understanding of defensive concepts. My post-up game is improved. I'm just an overall better player because of everything I learned at Rutgers."

Biruta's Lithuanian squad will compete in the A Division of the Championship as one of Europe's top 16 teams. Lithuania begins play in Group D along with Ukraine, Italy and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Biruta rejoins the Scarlet Knights in mid-August to prepare for his, and Rice's, second season on the Banks.

"It will be exciting to get back and work with the team again," Biruta said. "I can't wait to see the improvement of our guys coming back and to work with the incoming freshmen. It's a great incoming class."

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