|Leagues||Lithuanian Basketball League|
(1999–2007, 2012–2013, 2014–2015)
|Team colors||Navy blue, white|
|Head coach||Virginijus Šeškus|
|Championships||1 Baltic League|
1 NKL champions
2 LKF Cups
BC Prienai (Lithuanian: Krepšinio klubas Prienai), also known by the sponsor name Skycop Prienai, is a professional basketball club based in Prienai, Lithuania. They play domestically in Lithuanian Basketball League every year. During the 2008–09 season, then called Rūdupis they became the champion of the NKL and won the challenge match for a slot in the LKL. In their debut LKL season Rūdupis took seventh place, while next two seasons brought BC Prienai two bronze LKL medals. BC Prienai played in EuroCup 2011–12 with moderate success; the team won 3 games out of 6, but nonetheless failed to qualify for the next stage. More recently, the team has become a strong competitor in domestic tournaments, more than once upsetting teams such as Žalgiris Kaunas and Lietuvos rytas Vilnius. In December 2017, in a highly publicized move, Vytautas signed American basketball players and brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball.
- 1 History
- 2 Players
- 3 Season-by-season
- 4 Notable players
- 5 Notable coaches
- 6 Sponsors
- 7 References
- 8 External links
1994–2010: Early years
The club was founded in 1994 as KK Prienų Taupomasis Bankas playing in the LKAL and were one of the top teams. They joined the NKL ever since its foundation in 2005. During this time period in the NKL, the team would change names as it seemed every season, Prienai had their ups and downs, such as going from third seed in their group to not making the playoffs next season, but the major victories were yet to come.
During 2008–09 season, then called Rūdupis, the club, for the first time in the club history, became NKL champions downing Meresta Pakruojis in Game 7 of the finals. Because of that, BC Rūdupis got their slot in the Lithuanian Basketball League.
2010–2014: Turning heads
During the 2010–11 season, BC Rūdupis won the LKF Cup Bronze medals and was only one step away from gold or silver medals as they lost a thriller against the legendary Žalgiris Kaunas 73–75, but the surprises from BC Rūdupis in the 2010–11 season were not finished yet, as BC Rūdupis defeated Lithuanian Basketball League champions Lietuvos rytas Vilnius with result 96–82, during a LKL match at their home arena on 29 March 2011. On 15 April 2011, BC Rūdupis signed a contract with Rolandas Alijevas until the end of the season. In the LKL semi finals Rūdupis was not able to eliminate Lithuanian basketball powerhouse Lietuvos rytas Vilnius as they lost both matches (first match: 75–88, second match: 69–96). Rūdupis then played against Juventus in the LKL Bronze final, they won the first game at Prienai with a result of 79–65, then won the second game, this time on the road in Utena with a result 98–73. The third game took place in Prienai where Rūdupis won a thriller 84–83, thus winning the series 3–0 and becoming Lithuanian Basketball League bronze medalists for the first time in the club's history.
In 2011–12 season, the team played in the EuroCup competition, finishing 3rd in the group, though failing to qualify to the playoffs. They repeated as bronze medal winners, this time defeating Šiauliai 3–1.
The 2012–13 season was moderately successful for BC Prienai. The team played in the EuroCup, but again did not move past the group stage. The team also reached the BBL finals, and won the LKF Cup against Pieno žvaigždės Pasvalys. Despite home court advantage, Prienai lost to Neptūnas Klaipėda in the bronze medal series.
In the 2013–14 season, Lithuanian businessman Antanas Guoga sponsored the newly renamed BC TonyBet, the team once again won the LKF Cup when they pulled off a double upset, defeating Lietuvos rytas Vilnius in the finals after upsetting Žalgiris Kaunas in the semifinal. Prienai finished second in the LKL regular season, which even included a blowout win against Žalgiris Kaunas 101–83 at home. BC TonyBet made it to the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year, this time with a chance to qualify to the LKL finals for the first time ever, but lost the series 0–2 to Neptūnas Klaipėda. In the bronze medal series, the team lost to Lietuvos rytas. Apart from the disappointing finish, it was one of the most successful seasons in club history.
2014–present: Setbacks & a new direction
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The 2014–15 season was more of a write-off, as it started a rebuilding phase for the team. The team, having lost their main sponsor, longtime coach and much of the previous season's roster, played poorly. The team barely avoided relegation in the LKL, with a 23-game losing streak plummeting the team to the bottom of the standings. The team played better in the BBL, reaching the playoffs. Because of poor play, the team failed to qualify for the LKF Cup, losing it to Žalgiris Kaunas after their successful previous two seasons.
In the 2015 off-season, BC Prienai announced a sponsorship deal with Birštonas mineral water company, will be changing their name to BC Birštono Vytautas for sponsorship reasons. Having proper sponsorship, the club hopes to return to their competitive ways in the upcoming season. It was later corrected that the name will be BC Vytautas and that the club is going to be shared with the neighboring city of Birštonas, which hopefully would also expand the fanbase. Furthermore, on 29 July 2015, the club was invited to join the 2015–16 FIBA Europe Cup tournament, which is the alternative version of the 2nd tier European tournament EuroCup, organized by FIBA. Although, just before the drawing ceremony, it was announced that 56 teams will participate instead of 64 and Vytautas is not one of these 56. In this off-season BC Vytautas brought back former players Povilas Butkevičius, Vaidas Čepukaitis and Laimonas Kisielius, also resigning Prienai natives Domantas Šeškus, Paulius Ivanauskas and bringing in major reinforcement with Šarūnas Vasiliauskas, Vilmantas Dilys, Vytautas Šulskis, Gytis Sirutavičius. On 16 September 2015, Prienai announced their new logo and color change to blue and white as part of the sponsorship deal, though blue has been a traditional sports team color in the Prienai–Birštonas area.
On 30 December 2015, Prienai native Edvinas Šeškus was cleared to play for Vytautas, joining his father the head coach and his older brother Domantas. Because of injuries ruining the rotation, on 26 February 2016, Vytautas signed Tauras Jogėla. In the BBL playoffs, they lost to Nevėžis Kėdainiai in an upset. Vytautas finished the LKL regular season with a 19–17 record, but lost 2–3 in the quarterfinals to Juventus Utena.
Before the 2016–17 season, the team signed longtime Lithuanian national team player Tomas Delininkaitis. In addition to the LKL, the team also played in the FIBA Europe Cup. They easily finished 1st in the regular season group, defeating Mureș and TLÜ/Kalev Tallinn. In the second round, the team finished second, losing only to Telekom Baskets Bonn. The loss at home, however, cost the team a place in the playoffs. BC Vytautas then entered the BBL playoffs, as one of the potential favorites to win. They easily defeated Pärnu in the first round, before defeating Latvian champions Valmiera in the quarterfinals and Estonian champions Kalev/Cramo Tallinn in the semifinals. In the finals, Vytautas faced LKL rival Pieno žvaigždės Pasvalys. After losing the first game at home 85–88, they won the away game 89–74, winning the series 174–162 on aggregate, and winning their first BBL championship. Injuries started hurting the team, and in the quarterfinals Vytautas lost the series 0–3 to Lietkabelis Panevėžys.
The Ball brothers (2018)
Vytautas started the 2017–18 season poorly by failing to qualify for the 2017–18 Basketball Champions League season. The team was also performing poorly in the national competition by achieving only 4 victories out of 13 games in the 2017–18 LKL season. Consequently, the interest of fans to the team was rapidly decreasing every day. However, on 11 December 2017, with the help of 21 year old Communications Manager Erikas Kirvelaitis, the team signed LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, the younger brothers of Los Angeles Lakers player Lonzo Ball, both of whom reportedly agreed to join the team in the beginning of January 2018. Team managers described it as instant success.
In early January 2018, Vytautas pulled out of the Baltic Basketball League season, instead hosting the newly formed Big Baller Brand Challenge Games to give the Ball brothers more playing time against weaker teams, most of which played in lower leagues. On 23 January 2018, the team announced that the Big Baller Brand was an official sponsor until the end of the season. The news would be announced with the company helping pay off the team's debts they accrued previously, which amounted to 100,000 Euros. On the same day, the team temporarily appointed LaVar Ball, owner of the brand and the famous father of the Ball brothers, as assistant coach for a match-up with Dzūkija Alytus in the Big Baller Brand Challenge Games. On January 28, for the team's concluding exhibition game against Jonava, Ball was named head coach. Vytautas won all five games. By the end of February, Vytautas announced that it would play in another exhibition event sponsored by Ball's company, known the Big Baller Brand International Tournament, a round-robin competition featuring three European teams outside of Lithuania. In those games, LaVar Ball would be the team's head coach there instead. This time, Vytautas lost all three games. Vytautas would also play exhibition games against the youth squad for the Chinese Guangdong Southern Tigers in Lithuania and the British London Lions in England on March 27 and April 2 respectively. Vytautas won both games, defeating the Tigers 157–113 with LiAngelo scoring 72 points, and defeated the Lions 127–110, with the Ball brothers scoring a combined 83 points. After some drastic changes made, mainly with LaMelo being sidelined near the end of the regular season and leader Tomas Dimša leaving the team, Vytautas would go on a three-game winning streak, thus helping them hopefully avoid relegation this season. However, after a 25 April loss to Šiauliai where neither of the Ball brothers played that day, their father LaVar announced that he would pull the two players from the team on 29 April and have them return to the United States, with the plan on helping LiAngelo try and acquire a spot in the 2018 NBA draft. Before leaving, LaVar praised the fans and the team, but criticized coach Šeškus.
A 66–77 loss to Neptūnas Klaipėda at home ended almost all hope of reaching the ninth place and avoiding relegation, and a 73–79 loss to rival Pieno žvaigždės Pasvalys meant that Vytautas would finish in the last place. Before the last game of the season the team released Kervin Bristol, Rashaun Broadus and one of the team's leaders Denys Lukashov. In the last game of the season, Vytautas lost to the reigning champions Žalgiris Kaunas, losing the game in Kaunas 52–109. On 13 June, the LKL announced that Vytautas would most likely not play in the league in the 2018–19 season due to relegation. However, on 17 July, the league announced that Vytautas would participate in the new season after Vytis Šakiai from the NKL did not meet the requirements. A press statement from the team in August 2018 revealed that during their time with the club, the Ball family "started destroying the club" through means like not paying the prize money for the Big Baller Brand's tournament winners, withdrawing financial support, and taking back shooting machines that were presented to the team as gifts. However, despite no longer having Vytautas as a sponsor for the team, they look to survive by finding players with great discipline and personalities and giving priority to those professionals.
In August, the team changed their name to BC SkyCop, a name of their new sponsor, flight compensation group SkyCop. No player remained from the previous season, with coach Šeškus building a new team for the upcoming season. The team signed away three of BC Lietkabelis players, the Lavrinovič twins, former members of the Lithuanian national basketball team and leaders of Lietkabelis, and Gintaras Leonavičius. Former member of SkyCop, longtime BC Rytas player Mindaugas Lukauskis signed in August, and signed solid power forward, Mike Bruesewitz, the leader of Latvian champions BK Ventspils. The team also signed small forward Austin Arians, and Maverick Morgan, who had solid seasons in Ukraine and Poland. Davis Lejasmeiers and the returning Ovidijus Varanauskas were signed at the point guard position. The team also brought back Arnas Labuckas. Just before the season started, SkyCop signed former longtime BC Rytas player and 2-time Euroleague champion Martynas Gecevičius to a contract. In the first game of the season in the LKL, SkyCop faced BC Lietkabelis, one of the top teams, and won in dominating fashion 93–78. However, by the end of November, the team struggled in the LKL with a 4-8 record, and fighting for a place in the playoffs, leading to Arians, Morgan, Lejasmiers and Tyrone Nash being released from the team. While the additions of the returning Žygimantas Janavičius and newcomer Anthony Lee Jr. helped the team, more departures followed - team leader Bruesewitz left the team in January, followed by Varanauskas. By the middle of January, SkyCop was tied for 6th place in the LKL standings, with a 7-11 record.
In the new format of the King Mindaugas Cup, SkyCop faced NKL team BC Vytis in the first round - the team that was supposed to take their place in the LKL. SkyCop eliminated Vytis on aggregrate, 169:133 with two straight wins (78:54 away and 91:79 at home). In the second round, SkyCop faced BC Dzūkija - losing the first game at home 83:84, SkyCop was down for much of the first half in the return game in Alytus - before a very strong second half lead to a 79:68 win and a win on aggregrate 162:152. In the quaterfinals, now joined by Janavičius, SkyCop faced one of the heavy favorites, BC Neptūnas. SkyCop managed to score a tie 85:85 in the first game at home, and lead for most of the returning game in Klaipėda, before a solid fourth quater by Neptūnas lead to a 89:80 victory, eliminating SkyCop by aggregrate 174:165.
Note: Flags indicate national team eligibility at FIBA sanctioned events. Players may hold other non-FIBA nationality not displayed.
Updated: 7 September 2018
|Season||Tier||League||Pos.||Baltic League||LKF Cup||European competitions|
|2009–10||1||LKL||7th||Challenge Cup||2nd||Second round|
|2010–11||1||LKL||3rd||Elite Division||6th||Third place|
|2011–12||1||LKL||3rd||Elite Division||8th||Fourth place||2 Eurocup||RS||3–3|
|2012–13||1||LKL||4th||Elite Division||2nd||Champion||2 Eurocup||RS||2–4|
|2014–15||1||LKL||9th||Round of 16|
|2015–16||1||LKL||5th||Round of 16||Fourth place|
|2016–17||1||LKL||6th||Champion||Fourth place||4 FIBA Europe Cup||R2||7–3|
|2017–18||1||LKL||10th[a]||Withdrew||3 Champions League||QR1||1–1|
- Relegated, but remained in the league as Vytis did not meet the requirements for a licence in the league.
Note: Flags indicate national team eligibility at FIBA sanctioned events. Players may hold other non-FIBA nationality not displayed.
To appear in this section a player must have either:
- Valdas Dabkus (2010; 2012)
- Povilas Butkevičius (2010–2012, 2015–2016)
- Gediminas Orelik (2010–2013)
- Dainius Šalenga (2011–2012, 2013, 2015–2016)
- Rolandas Alijevas (2011–2012)
- Saulius Kuzminskas (2011–2012)
- Gintaras Kadžiulis (2011–2014)
- Artūras Valeika (2012–2014)
- Mindaugas Lukauskis (2013–2014)
- Artūras Milaknis (2012–2013)
- Virginijus Šeškus (2008–2014, 2015–present)
The club is very closely related with the Royal Spa Residence in Birštonas. All of the team members are living there and the season closing events are also taking place there. In January 2018, weeks after Vytautas signed American brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball, their father's sports apparel company Big Baller Brand was named an official team sponsor. The brand was also the sponsor of two exhibition competitions Vytautas took part in early 2018: the Big Baller Brand Challenge Games in January and the Big Baller Brand International Tournament in February.
- "Prienų komandos generalinė rėmėja – įmonė "Skycop"". BC Prienai (in Lithuanian). 22 August 2018. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
- "NKL čempionais tapo "Rūdupio" krepšininkai (foto)". BasketNews.lt. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- ""Rūdupis" sutriuškino "Neptūną" ir iškovojo LKF taurės turnyro bronzą". Delfi.lt. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- "LKF taurės pusfinalyje "Žalgiris" tik paskutinėmis akimirkomis palaužė "Rūdupį" (nuotraukos)". 15min.lt. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- "LKL: Prienų "Rūdupis" sensacingai įveikė "Lietuvos rytą"". 15min.lt. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- Pupininkas, Martynas. ""Rūdupis" pasiekė susitarimą su Alijevu". BasketNews.lt. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- "Tritaškius fantastiškai metęs "Lietuvos rytas" pirmajame LKL pusfinalyje palaužė "Rūdupį"". 15min.lt. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- Miklovas, Jonas. ""Lietuvos rytas" be didesnių problemų žengė į LKL finalą (video, foto, komentarai, statistika)". BasketNews.lt. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- Miklovas, Jonas. "Pirmąjį mūšį dėl bronzos laimėjo "Rūdupis" (video, foto, komentarai, statistika)". BasketNews.lt. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- Pupininkas, Martynas. "LKL mažasis finalas: "Rūdupis" sudavė dar vieną smūgį "Juventus" ekipai (video, komentarai, statistika)". BasketNews.lt. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- Miklovas, Jonas. "LKL bronza pirmą kartą istorijoje atiteko "Rūdupiui" (video, foto, komentarai, statistika)". BasketNews.lt. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- "FIBA Europos taurės dalyvių sąraše – penki Lietuvos klubai". BasketNews.lt. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
- "FIBA paskutinę akimirką iš turnyro dalyvių sąrašo išbraukė "Lietkabelį" ir "Vytautą"". BasketNews.lt. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
- "Namie olandų sutriuškintas "Vytautas" pasitraukė iš FIBA Čempionų lygos atrankos". DELFI. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
- "Prienų–Birštono Vytautas - LKL.LT". LKL.lt. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
- "OFICIALU: "Vytauto" gretose – broliai Ball'ai". bcvytautas.lt (in Lithuanian). 12 December 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
- Stalgaitis, Vilius. "Rankomis trinantis "Vytautas": "Jau dabar matome akivaizdžią naudą"". BasketNews.lt (in Lithuanian). Retrieved 12 December 2017.
- Goodman, Jeff (6 January 2018). "Lithuanian team schedules 'Big Baller Brand Challenge' games". ESPN. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "Prie "Vytauto" Klubo Remeju Prisijunge "Big Baller Brand"". BCVytautas.lt. 23 January 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
- "LaVar Ball to be assistant coach for LiAngelo and LaMelo's team for friendly in Lithuania". ESPN. 23 January 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
- Daniels, Tim (28 January 2018). "LaVar Ball to Coach LiAngelo, LaMelo and Vytautas vs. Jonava". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
- Martin, Josh (19 February 2018). "LiAngelo, LaMelo Ball to play in Big Baller Brand International Tournament". Lonzo Ball Wire. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
- "LKL licencijos suteiktos 9 klubams". lkl.lt. 17 July 2018. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
- "Vytautas". LKL.lt (in Lithuanian). Retrieved 3 July 2017.
- "PRIENAI". BBL.net. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
- "BC Prienai". www.eurocupbasketball.com. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
- "Prienu-Birstono Vytautas". FIBA.com. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
- "Prienų-Birštono "Vytauto" krepšininkai apsigyveno viešbutyje "Royal SPA Residence"". kvitrina.lt (in Lithuanian). 19 August 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
- ""Vytauto" sezono uždarymas "Royal SPA Residence" (Foto) - kvitrina.lt · Prienų ir Birštono naujienų portalas". kvitrina.lt · Prienų ir Birštono naujienų portalas (in Lithuanian). 27 May 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
- "Home - Royal Spa Residence". Royal-spa.lt. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
- Official website (in Lithuanian)