TREVISO, Italy — Sarunas Marciulionis played seven seasons in the NBA, most notably from 1989-1993 as a member of the Golden State Warriors. He finished as a runner-up for the Sixth Man of the Year award in 1992 after his best season in the league, one in which he averaged 18.9 points on just 12.7 shots per game while shooting better than 53 percent from the field.
Marciulionis was also a member of the famed Lithuanian national team (definitely check out the documentary if you’re not familiar with their story), and appeared for them in the Olympics in both the 1992 and the 1996 summer games, where he was a teammate of adidas Eurocamp director Arturas Karnisovas.
That’s the connection that brought Marciulionis to Treviso, where he put on a brief clinic teaching the players in attendance at the international pre-draft camp some fundamentals about playing the guard position.
Marciulionis focused on how to properly position yourself to catch the ball against a defender, how to go quickly one you receive the ball, how to properly set up your defender to use a screen, and how the defensive players should position themselves and use their left hand as their primary one to defend right-handed players.
The majority of the clinic can be seen in the video clip above (stick with it, the audio improves about 90 seconds in), and much like Kevin McHale teaching post play at Eurocamp last year, it’s always interesting to get a former star’s perspective on how the game should be played.
In speaking with Marciulionis afterward, he gave me some thoughts on how he views some of today’s players at the position.
“Offensively, individually they’re very good — street basketball, maybe pickup game kind of experience,” he said. “In our time, I guess we were slower.”
As far as what he’s seeing from the younger players and the systems they’re being taught as they’re coming up, Marciulionis said he’d like to see more of them learn to operate without the use of perimeter screens.
“I think individually, some of them are good — they know how to change direction, they know how to get rid of their defender,” he said. “But they’re always using this pick; they need to rely more on their first step and use their speed. I guess that’s basketball how it is (now). If you remember older times, (it was) motion. UCLA. Box sets. You were always running something. And now, for the last 15 years or so, everybody’s running a high pick.”
One of the more interesting parts of the clinic was Marciulionis explaining how players should use their left hand to defend right-handed players. It makes sense, of course, but it’s a little counter-intuitive to the way most right-handed players think, and even to the way they are taught.
Marciulionis admitted it was difficult trying to get players to switch to this style, but believes it can work more easily if they’re taught how to do it from the very start.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “You have to go with the young kids — get ’em early, teach them at a young age.”
And what about the results?
“We’ll see how it works,” he said. “I’ll tell you in five years.”