Home » Health » From Berlin to Kaunas – on a white stallion: the newcomer of Žalgiris, a housewife, was moved by an old acquaintance

From Berlin to Kaunas – on a white stallion: the newcomer of Žalgiris, a housewife, was moved by an old acquaintance


There weren’t many players in this century who have more than once become U.S. Student Basketball League (NCAA) champions.

N. Giffey boasts two titles – he was awarded the NCAA Laureate at the University of Connecticut in 2011 and 2014.

And that has so far been the only experience of a 30-year-old striker competing outside his homeland. In fact, Mr Giffey had never even left his hometown again.

Growing up in the country’s capital that demolished the Cold War, he returned to Berlin after studying in the U.S. in 2014 and has been the most loyal ALBA soldier since then, eventually earning the rank of captain.

The old relationship with Mr Schiller was a very important reason for my determination to move out of Berlin after so many years. That doesn’t mean I absolutely avoid risk. Just someone has to grab me to get out of place.

Nielsas Giffey

Together with the Americans Luke Sikma and Peyton Siva, N. Giffey formed a long-standing team nucleus, with whose efforts the club broke into the finals of the European Cup in 2019, thus reopening the doors of the Euroleague.

The coach of N. Giffey was happy with the game so far, but still wanted to change the line up.

Or perhaps most importantly, at least Delphi The 201 cm tall basketball player was described by Sebastian Kayser, the sports editor of the million-dollar daily Bild.

Both he and ALBA fans were quite surprised when a representative of the German national team crossed with Žalgiris in the first days of the summer.

Lithuanian champions cutting the budget could not make a startling offer to the newcomer – Delphi According to sources, N. Giffey’s annual salary will increase by a maximum of 50 thousand after moving to Kaunas. euros.

The newcomer of Žalgiris had additional arguments, as did his friend Marius Grigonis, when in 2018 ALBA changed to a hometown club adored since childhood.

Between 2008 and 2020, the Berliners never won national championships, although they played in the finals four times during that time.

Finally, last year, ALBA triumphed in the doubles, triumphing not only in the Bundesliga championship, but also in the German Cup.

The students of Aito Garcia Renaissance, who recently said goodbye to the club this year, defended the title of the country’s champions.

After a long break, a solidly replenished both club and personal trophy gallery pushed the stone away from N. Giffey’s chest.

“It can be said that I went out of Berlin on a white horse. We have not been lucky enough to win anything in Germany for a few years, but we have made up in recent seasons. I thought that all the goals here had already been achieved, it is possible to close this chapter. That made it easier for me to say goodbye and leave, ”I said Delphi, the German, who recorded the averages of 8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists in the last Euroleague season, stated the reason for his move.

Nielsas Giffey

But to stack things – one. You still need to know where to transport them.

Mr Giffey was helped by the fact that his phone had a number of people associated with Žalgiris.

First of all, the team strategist from Austria Martin Schiller, who previously worked for the coaching staff of the German national team for five years.

Also, the former Žalgiris people, whose opinions were asked by N. Giffey before signing the contract, concluded according to the formula “1 + 1”.

Žalgiris club attracts people in its own way, I was also one of those who are interested in it. And the familiar coach helped to decide. There were more of those acquaintances: Marius Grigonis, Steve Vasturia. They advised to go to Kaunas because they were satisfied with what they got here. “Žalgiris arena, the atmosphere created by the fans – everything corresponds to my imaginary place, where I would like to be,” explained the new legionnaire of the team.

– There is no doubt that M. Grigonis said a few beautiful words about “Žalgiris”. And what did S. Vasturia say, for whom the season in Kaunas was completely unsuccessful?Delphi asked N. Giffey

– Yes, he had a difficult year, but Steve was impressed by the club’s professional approach to the players. Also, the agitation caused by this team in Lithuania – although the pandemic prevented it from experiencing it one hundred percent. You see, even if you play wavy yourself, you can always find positive things.

– How would you have reacted if “Žalgiris” had submitted an offer a few years ago, when the team was still coached by Šarūnas Jasikevičius – a specialist with a completely different cut than M. Schiller?

Shar is also a very successful coach, albeit in a different style. But the old relationship with Mr Schiller was a very important reason for my determination to move out of Berlin after so many years. That doesn’t mean I absolutely avoid risk. Just someone has to grab me to get out of the place (smiles – Delphi). Although in this case, the opportunity to play in “Žalgiris” was interesting to me in many aspects.

– ALBA Euroleague was the team in the second part of the tournament table. Which shelf are you thinking of targeting “Žalgiris”?

– I think fans will add strength to us. I remember that matches in Kaunas were always very difficult. If we are able to take advantage of the atmosphere in the “Žalgiris” arena and successfully defend the walls of the house, we can expect good results. Because winning a trip in the Euroleague is really not easy.

Both ALBA and Žalgiris are not usually among the main contenders to play in the final four. So we have to be combative and aggressive in order to compete. I think that’s why people support such teams – first and foremost because of their passion.

– You play both light and heavy forward. In which position are you going to spend more time on the new team?

– For the last few years, I have competed in both positions – as a coach was more comfortable for tactical reasons. I may have played a little more in the “third number”, but I often slipped to the “fourth” to attack from further afield or run under the basket against a slower opponent. It doesn’t make much of a difference to me, it all depends on what advantages the coach wants to create.

– Let’s change the subject. In 2019, after the failure of the German national team at the World Cup, you said that the players from the NBA and Europe did not “join” the team properly. Was everything different this summer?

– Summer was really quite good for us, we got to the Olympics. I think we demonstrated great basketball. After the World Cup, we were very dissatisfied with ourselves, disappointed, we talked to each other about why we drove off suddenly – after all, we beat such powerful teams as Australia in preparation for the championship. I think this year we just learned and won when we needed it most. In the selection tournament we repeatedly lagged behind the competitors, but we won at the end of the match. And not in any way, but in the best way – basing your game on defense.

– However, in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics, Germany, like Lithuania before, suffered from Luka Dončičius. Was it a one-day Slovenian victory, or did this team really rise above the older European basketball powers?

– I really enjoyed their team play. Slovenia is not only L. Dončičius, not only his one-on-one game. In Tokyo, this could be seen by watching the Slovenian match with Spain, which managed to break Lukai’s trap, but then he received the help of a wonderful team of friends. This team really has its own spirit – when L. Dončičius matures even more, it will be extremely difficult to defend against its attack.

– Were you surprised at how quickly the NBA star played against most of the basketball players in the European Cup – something that Dennis Schroder led Germany may have missed before?

– It really surprised me, of course. Perhaps this is because Luka is not an NBA product – after all, he grew up in Europe, learning the Spanish basketball system. Probably a basketball player of such abilities can easily switch his game mode, performing many elements of basketball differently.

Niels Giffey (right), Stefan Grassegger

Niels Giffey (right), Stefan Grassegger

© DELFI / Nerijus Povilaitis

– In the end, should the Žalgiris locker room already start learning German, as the number of people who speak it has only been growing in recent seasons?

– Well, there aren’t that many of us yet – one German and two Austrians. The funny thing is that I sometimes have a hard time talking to one of the latter – assistant coach Stefan Grassegger. Our agreement is not the same, we have to ask several times what he wanted to say. Probably we should learn the Lithuanian language – we could communicate with each other in Lithuanian (laughs – Delphi).

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