The Lithuanians will meet Mike Krzyzewski’s team USA in the first semifinal of the World Championship and this will be the second occasion where Pocius has a chance to play against his former coach from his time at Duke.
“There are a lot of emotions, but it’s not about making a point to someone. After all, we’re playing in a World Championship semifinal and that should be the most important thing,” said Pocius after a team practice on Friday. “Our friendly game before the tournament had an emotional boost for me as I hadn’t seen the coach for a long time. Everything has settled down now, I’m sure the coach has had a chance to see how I played in this tournament.”
The first encounter between the two sides took place in Madrid. After almost three quarters of an even game, the Lithuanians collapsed in a couple of minutes and let team USA break away into a double-digit lead.
Krzyzewski’s players won 77-61 that time as Pocius finished the game with seven points and four boards in 16 minutes of court-time.
The Lithuanian national team guard’s game during the World Championship could be considered as a quite reproach to Coach K for keeping Pocius benched for most of his four years in NCAA.
Now Pocius is considered as one of the most pleasant surprises in the Lithuanian national team averaging 8.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in the World Championship.
That said, the player talks about his former coach with great respect.
“The coach has done a great job of organizing these young players and making them a team that can play well without the stars and in. In Duke he told us that five players had to play like one and be like a fist,” Pocius remembered.
According to Pocius, the Americans understand that it’s the defense that could help them win the tournament and therefore that’s one of the keys to the game of team USA.
“Right from the beginning of the summer they have been told that they won’t win the World Championship without defense. They’re currently first in scoring in this tournament, but also second in fewest points allowed,” Pocius explained. “We won’t be able to run them out of the gym like we did against Argentina.”
“We’ll need to play disciplined basketball and take care of small details, from which they usually get a lot of their points. We’ll need to limit our turnovers, get off good shots, because once they get the ball – they’re all off in transition. We’ll need to play smart and just be men on the court. They play aggressively, on the foul limit – if one loses awareness, team USA will be there to punish you.”
Pocius has already shown that he’s capable of playing at the highest level already, but a victory against the Americans in the semifinal would make it twice as sweet.
“We met and he told me that he’s proud that I’m here. This is really pleasant to hear, but I just hope we’re able to show them something more,” Pocius smiled.