VILNIUS (FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - When exciting 1996-born prospect Dalia Belickaite steps out for the host nation Lithuania at this summer's FIBA U19 World Championship for Women, don't expect her to remain in her shell just because she will have barely turned 17 years old.
The dynamic player oozes ability and despite being one of the youngest players in the competition, she will be one of the players to watch, having posted a couple of phenomenal campaigns for Lithuania at successive U16 European Championship Division B tournaments.
She first burst onto the scene two years ago, when she racked up 16 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game on her national team debut and then followed it up last summer, with an even better 17.3 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
Belickaite also represented Lithuania at last summer's FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championships in Alcobendas, Spain.
"For me, age isn't really important, because during the (club) season, I'm playing with older girls," insisted Belickaite.
"It's even easier to play with them because they're more mature, have better skills, and that makes the game easier for me and for the team.
"Also, it makes me want to reach even higher goals."
Belickaite is thrilled her homeland will welcome the cream of young basketball talent from 18-28 July and is counting down the moment to when she puts on the green Lithuanian jersey once again.
"It's really exciting and I'm happy that we will be able to compete with the strongest teams in the world," she said.
"I just want to see the different styles of basketball and compare the teams.
"Also, I think we will get a lot of experience which will help us in the future."
As for the team's objectives, the 1.75m guard/forward said: "Our goal is get to the quarter-finals, but I think the basic goal for each player should be to give 150 percent, bring energy and show the best they can do.
"Even when we're not the strongest and the finest like the USA national team, we will want to reach the best possible goals.
"I hope that all girls will play with heart and will support each other!
"I also really hope this summer that a lot of people will come to watch these women's basketball teams from all over the world and also give support to our own team."
It's little wonder Belickaite can't wait to get back on the floor at a youth tournament and test her skills after her glorious summer in 2012. She was crowned MVP in Tallinn after leading Lithuania to a Division B gold medal and promotion to the top tier.
"My memories are just incredible," she said.
"We were like a family, we fought for each other, we supported each other and we just had a priceless experience.
"And, when we won first place, it was so good - I can barely describe that feeling!
"It's just awesome when you have such a feeling in the heart, seeing all those smiles from my team-mates and coaches - it makes me want to play and also makes me feel so alive!"
Belickaite talks passionately about the game, reflecting her dedication and mirroring the energy she puts into her performances.
So far, she is gaining rapid recognition for her exploits and is happy to accept any plaudits which come her way, since they further fuel her ambition.
"It's very pleasant when you get so much attention and when your work has been seen," she mused.
"My goal and dream is to become professional basketball player not only in Lithuania, but elsewhere in the world too.
"I'm working harder and harder, and also enjoying my work!"
Her biggest supporter remains her sister, who is a cheerleader and dancer, very much sharing the passion for the sport.
"Me and my sister are like best friends," she said.
"We can talk with each other about everything - basketball, dancing, school or boys. We go to a lot of basketball games.
"Maybe she can't criticise me about basketball because she doesn't understand it very well, but when we are having conversation about her dancing, I do like to criticise her because I used to be a dancer before I started to play basketball," laughed Belickaite.
"But, we always support each other, listen to each others' problems, and give advice. If I play a bad game, she always knows how to make me smile afterwards!"
Lithuania face China, Mali and the USA in Group D.
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