FC Barcelona has just closed a one-year deal with one of the finest basketball players in the world. Sarunas Jasikevicius was at Barça for three hugely successful seasons, and now he’s coming home. The Lithuanian has said the moment is “better late than never.” His last season in a Barça shirt was 2002/03, and Jasikevicius has never made a secret of the fact that he always hoped he’d be back some day to once again enthral the spectators at the Palau Blaugrana.
Jasikevicius has never stopped winning titles. After leaving FC Barcelona, he won three Euroleagues in addition to one he already collected at the Palau Sant Jordi alongside Bodiroga, Fucka, Dueñas, Navarro and company. 'Saras' has played for no fewer than six clubs since leaving Barça, where he has also won numerous domestic leagues and cups, and also got a couple of years of NBA experience. Jasikevicius is more mature than ever, and knows that his role will not be the same as it was a decade ago, but is as keen as ever to delight the fans in a city he loves.
Navarro, only survivor
The only player left from the 2002/03 squad is Juan Carlos Navarro. 'La Bomba', who was just 22 years old back then, but just as decisive. His skills and leadership were no doubt inspired in their day by the great Jasikevicius. Both players are now living legends of the Euroleague and ACB, and once again they will be sharing the same dressing room.
Barça and Maccabi before USA
Jasikevicius started playing professional after experiencing the college game at Maryland, where he was less of a playmaker and more of a guard. He then returned home to Lietuvos Rytas in 1998/99, and year later moved to KK Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. His performances against FC Barcelona in the Euroleague caught Barça’s interest and two seasons later he was on the roster of the Catalan giants.
At FC Barcelona he excelled as a guard and stayed until 2003, where he became a firm fan favourite, with his charming character, individual flair, excellent vision and tremendous long shooting and became the natural leader of a team that was destined to make history.
He left in 2003/04 for Maccabi Tel Aviv, and the Israelis enjoyed all the same qualities that had made him such a hero at the Palau. He spearheaded the yellows to two consecutive Euroleague titles (2004 and 2005), as well as two national league and cup doubles.
Odd time in the NBA
After some stunning showings at the Athens Olympics of 2004, he was invited to America. He was at the Indiana Pacers for two seasons, and his first, 2005/06, was something of a disappointment with averages of 7.3 points and 3 assists in 20.8 minutes. In his second year (2006/07), his stats were more or less the same (7.4 points and 3 assists in 17,9 minutes). Midway through the season, the Pacers used him in a trade with the Golden State Warriors, and in Oakland Sarunas Jasikevicius got even less time on court than he did in Indiana (4.3 points and 2.3 assists in 12.0 minutes).
PAO bring success back
Panathinaikos was the next stop for Jasikevicius. Coached by Zeljko Obradovic 'Saras' was the perfect playmaker in a star-studded team featuring Batiste and Diamantidis. His time in Greece made up for the relative let-down of his time Stateside, and between 2007 and 2010, he won another Euroleague (2009), 2 Cups (2008 and 2009) and 3 Leagues (2008, 2009 and 2010).
When his contract ended with Panathinaikos, he was without a team for a while before going back to Lietuvos Rytas one decade later. But he was soon moving again, this time to Turkey in 2010/11 to join Fenebahçe, where there was a league and cup double waiting. Jasikevicius then returned to PAO, where he made another Final Four, but missed out on yet another continental title. But his side did at least win the Greek cup.
Jasikevicius has a massive collection of trebles. He has won the national league and cup plus the Euroleague no fewer than four times. The first was here at FC Barcelona in 2002/03. He then repeated the trick two years in a row at Maccabi Tel Aviv (2003/04 and 2004/05) and for the fourth and final time he did the trick with Panathinaikos (2008/09) .