Paulius Murauskas, one of the top European prospects in his age group, has signed a letter of intent with the Arizona Wildcats, he told ESPN on Wednesday.
“My decision to go to the NCAA is all about improvement,” Murauskas told ESPN. “Especially physical improvement to be able to compete in high-intensity games. Personally, I think that this will be the best place for my further development as a person and as a basketball player.”
The 6-foot-9 forward from Lithuania led the FIBA U18 European Championship in scoring last summer at 20.7 points per game, finishing second in player efficiency ranking (PER) behind MVP Izan Almansa.
Murauskas was identified as a top-tier prospect in Lithuania from an early stage, making his first-division debut with his home club of Zalgiris already as a 16-year old. He brings a wealth of experience for a player his age, playing 61 games at the pro level in the EuroCup and Lithuanian first division this season, averaging 6 points and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes per game, shooting 68% from 2-point range and 34% for 3. He played up as a 17-year-old on loan in the first division with Nevezis last season, averaging 8.4 points in 20 minutes per game, a rarity at this level of competition.
Murauskas offers significant mismatch potential at the college level with his strong frame and excellent ballhandling, shot-creation and passing ability at 6-9, seeing minutes at both forward spots this past season for Lietkabelis, which finished in fourth place in Lithuania. He brings a level of physicality you don’t often see from players his age, attacking defenders relentlessly, pushing off the defensive glass and getting to the free throw line prolifically everywhere he has played.
“I think that the adaptation will take some time,” Murauskas said. “This is even normal for older American players coming to different European leagues. However, I believe that my experience in Europe playing against mature players will help me adapt more easily. I played at a really high level for two years now, and I believe my versatility, size and skills will be successful in the NCAA.”
The Wildcats have a strong nucleus of guards and big men, reeling in highly regarded transfers Caleb Love (North Carolina), Jaden Bradley (Alabama) and Keshad Johnson (San Diego State) to go along with three important returners in Oumar Ballo, Pelle Larsson and Kylan Boswell. With his perimeter skill and improving jumper, Murauskas should be able to see some minutes at the small forward position for Arizona next season, where there are minutes to be had.
Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd built his reputation as an international basketball recruiting maven at Gonzaga by reeling in the likes of Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania), Ronny Turiaf (France), Rui Hachimura (Japan), Kelly Olynyk (Canada), Mario Kasun (Croatia) and others, and Murauskas continues that tradition along with former national team and Zalgiris teammate Motiejus Krivas, a 7-foot-2 center who will be joining him in Tucson next season.
Murauskas will be the seventh international player on Arizona’s roster next season, joining Krivas (Lithuania), Ballo (Mali), Larsson (Sweden), Henri Veesaar (Estonia), Filip Borovicanin (Serbia) and Conrad Martinez (Spain).
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and international teams.