MIES (Switzerland) – Rytas Vilnius did not have a successful maiden campaign in the Basketball Champions League last season, but they are back with a bang this time around, led by their towering man in the middle Ivan Buva.
Rytas are up to 2-2 in Group H, they were inches away from being up at 3-1, but they lost the overtime thriller in Istanbul against Besiktas Icrypex 82-79. They then hit them back in Lithuania, winning 82-69, taking the tiebreaker in case of a potential tie at the end of the Regular Season.
With Buva in the middle, life seems much easier for coach Giedrius Zibenas. The 30-year-old Croat had 39 points in those two November games against Besiktas, dominating under the rim to earn the MVP of November award in the BCL.
„Individual awards mean a lot, but I would’ve rather two wins over Besiktas, because our goal for the season was to advance to the next round and get as far as possible in the BCL,“ Buva told us after hearing the good news.
It was, and wasn’t a surprise, all at once.
„It’s a nice surprise really. I didn’t expect it, despite playing well against Besiktas. But I’m feeling good this season, I feel like I’ve scored 20 or more in every game, and if I don’t score 20 or more, it’s like I didn’t even show up for the game,“ the center laughed.
He isn’t far away from the truth, though. Buva is averaging 19.8 points in just 26 minutes per game in the BCL, and he has also been in double digits in every single game in the Lithuanian League, as well, getting 18.0 points and 6.1 rebounds across those ten gamedays in Betsafe LKL.
Those 1.8 points per game more in Europe have only one reason behind them.
„These fans in Vilnius are amazing,“ he explained.
„We are playing the BCL in the bigger arena, and the domestic league in the smaller one, and the whole energy of the bigger place is just stronger, you have a feeling you’re at least 20 percent better of a player when the fans are over there.“
Playing in front of colorful fans has been a theme throughout Ivan’s career. From his days in Croatia, BIH, Italy, Spain, Turkey, France, it seems like he always picked a team with a huge following. Rytas Vilnius fits the mold perfectly.
„I wouldn’t really rank them by position. But let’s just say, top three fan bases I’ve been around are Rytas, Avellino and Besiktas.“
With Buva getting double digit points regularly, with Rytas Vilnius winning game, with the fans packing the stands in Lithuania, the general feeling of 2021-22 is way better than the one of 2020-21. But the starting point of this climb was back in the previous campaign.
„We’re better now than we were a season ago, the chemistry with this team is better, and this is just a logical continuation to all the good things that we’ve been doing since February. We’ve had 17 wins in a row back then, then our recruiting was really good and with that chemistry we found, we’re playing better, definitely,“ the MVP of November offered.
He succeeded MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg’s Jonah Radebaugh, who was the MVP of October. Both Ludwigsburg and Rytas seem like they want more than just monthly awards over here. Buva agrees.
„You’re always hoping you could win the whole thing. But I feel if we make it out of the Regular Season, everything we do after that would just be a bonus reward for us.“
Buva will be presented with the MVP trophy before an upcoming Rytas Vilnius home game.
Quelle: Basketball Champions League, 1. Dezember 2021