During my recent trip to Kaunas to cover the Nike International Junior tournament, I also had the chance to visit the Sabonis Basketball Academy. The Sabonio Krepsinio Mokykla as it is called in Lithuanian is generally considered as one of the best basketball academies in Europe so it was interesting to see how it works and how they develop young players for Zalgiris Kaunas and the Lithuanian National Team.
The complex is located a bit outside of the city center of Kaunas. It features 4 basketball courts of which 2 are FIBA certified. These two courts are generally used for the games of the teams of the school but also for some games of Senior teams from Kaunas. The two other courts are only used for practices. Next to the courts, the center has a top-notch weight-lifting room, 9 dressing rooms, a cafeteria and a trophy lounge where you can sip a coffee while watching basketball games on the courts or on TV. The dimensions of the center would make lots of professional teams jealous as it features everything that you need for a quality practice.
Currently there are more than 700 kids practicing in the Sabonis school. Depending on their age, they have three to seven practice units per week. The youngest players are around 10 years old while they can stay up to their majority at the age of 18 in the school. The competition is rude among the different Basketball academies as there are 7 Basketball academies in the 350,000 people city of Kaunas alone. From the moment that you can detect a highly interesting talent, all schools try to chase the kid in order to get him in their system. Of course, the Sabonis School has the best options as it is the biggest and the most famous one but this does not mean that their teams are dominating everything as we could see in the games that were running while we were at the complex.
Talking about games, there are about 400 games per season in the center as all the teams compete in different local, regional or national championships. Next to a specific athletic and weight-lifting coach, there are 13 basketball coaches active in the school. They normally follow one generation over several years in order to better understand and see their progress over the years. The kids themselves do not stay overnight at the academy. As most of them come from the city of Kaunas, they stay with their parents but just come to the Sabonis center for the practices. But the school is also recruiting nation-wide and even internationally. For these players, they help to find places where they can live during the week or the season depending on their situation.
Next to the ordinary basketball school, the Sabonis center is also organizing summer and winter camps for any kind of youth basketball teams. You can find more information about these camps on the official website of the academy. The future looks good for Lithuanian basketball with academies like this. It will probably not last long until the next big name is coming out of the Sabonio Krepsinio Centras.