Julius Zurna (188-PG-1986) is a 35 year old 188cm guard from Lithuania playing his 10th professional season in Germany and fourth in Limburg with the Bona Baskets. In Germany, he also played for Aschersleben, Schwenningen,Bernau, Koblenz and Idtsein. He began his career in his native Lithuania before coming to Germany. He spoke to germanhoops.com after the tough 83-65 loss to MTV Kronberg where he led his team with 18 points.
Thanks Julius for talking to germanhoops.com You suffered a tough 83-65 loss to MTV Kronberg. Before the loss the team had a three game winning streak. What was the team doing better in this stretch?
This season we have had a lot of bad luck with Covid and cancelations of games. We usually had a small rotation of 5-6 guys. We have had trouble bringing intensity in the second half. We get tired. We had more consistency in the last weeks with guys back. Usually teams play better at the end of the season. We have a good starting five, but just didn’t click as a team. We want to finish the season strong a build a core for next season. Kronberg have played together many years and it shows.
MTV Kronberg had the slim 23-19 advantage after 10 minutes. What was the difference?
They are a very good shooting team and hit many three’s. We lacked contact. We had good defense at times, but they hit many shots in their faces.
The guests ran away with the game with a 32-13 second quarter. They nailed 8 three’s. Why couldn’t Limburg guard the three point line better?
We made tactical mistakes. We kept the zone locked. Our big wasn’t a good match up. They play 5-0 on the three point line and we got killed.
MTV Kronberg continued to dominate in the third quarter winning it 29-16. Why couldn’t Limburg get over the hump?
We tried a press but it didn’t work. When your down 20 plus points, you need energy. We didn’t have that.
The Bona Baskets Limburg had a strong fourth quarter winning it 17-4. Why couldn’t Limburg play like that in the second and third quarters?
When you have a big lead, you usually sub in guys that don’t usually play many minutes. They relaxed a bit. But that is normal even in higher leagues.
Your playing your fourth season with the Bona Baskets Limburg. What makes it so special to come back?
I live here. I came here as a professional player, got a job and met a special woman. I work for a company called Harmonic Drive. We produce moving parts for robots. Limburg is my home. I will play here for as long as my body allows me to. I want to play a few more years.
Your playing a solid season, but how difficult is it not being that real main guy when you have guys like Justin Stallbohm, KJ Sherril, Noah Westerhaus and Matej kljaic?
I came back with the idea of getting faster into shape, but that didn’t happen. I didn’t do anything during the lock down to stay in shape. I’m not 18 anymore. I’m just a help this season and don’t count myself as a main guy. If I can get into top shape this summer, then I would like to include myself as a main guy next season.
Your playing your 10th season in Germany. Why didn’t you leave Germany ever again?
I’m from Lithuania When I left in 2012, times were different. It is better now. But back then you never knew if you would get your money on time or even at all. In Germany everything is safe regulated. I never had a problem with getting my money here. Early in my time in Germany, I had the chance to go to Italy, but then I met my girl and I decided to play it safe and stay here.
What is your role on the team this season? To keep the main scorers happy with your playmaking?
I’m a help to bring calmness, a bit more organization and give advice to the young players. I don’t need to be that leader this season. My body didn’t allow me to. But next year, I definitely want to have that leadership role again and have that first option as a playmaker again and help out Matej kljaic.
You haven’t been that big scorer the last three seasons. Has that bothered you?
No it hasn’t. When I went to Koblenz, they had ambitions to move up and had high level players. They had many scorers and I didn’t need to do that. In Idstein, I played only a few games before the team went bankrupt. This season I came back to Limburg not having played in 1.5 years, got injured and had corona.
What do you feel is your biggest strength on the court at age 35 besides your experience?
My role is pretty much the same. I have always been known for being a shooter and playing the pick and roll well. I haven’t been shooting the ball as well this season. There are some factors like, my legs and a lack of confidence. I may not be the fastest, but I’m one of the smarter guys on the court.
In 2015-2016 you played for the wiha Panthers Schwenningen and Alen Velcic. If someone had told you then that a few years later they would be in the Pro A would you have believed it?
I would of believed it. When I got there, I was surprised how well everything was organized. They had everything from flats, cars to open gym. They even had opportunities for work. They had a big ambition to move up. I probably would have stayed if I had not had a personal disagreement with Alen. He is a big guy there and has the sponsors on his side. He is 80% of the team. If you have a disagreement, you won’t have a chance to stay. I’m no Milos Teodosic. But in the end all played out well. I moved on.
You played two seasons with BC Aschersleben where you averaged 20 and 22 points per game. Was that your most successful time as a player in terms of stats?
Yes for scoring that was my best season. I was really motivated then to make the next jump as a player. I was a professional and didn’t work. I was in the gym two times a day and could practice as much as I wanted and was really focused on the game. I had the green light in Aschersleben. In Schwenningen I was able to develop more as a point guard. They had 6-7 really good scorers. I can remember making 6-7 mistakes in a game, but Alen still gave me all freedom at the end of the game. I became more mature as a combo guard in Schwenningen.
You had many great games in the Regionalliga like netting 36 points against Bremerhaven or exploding for 33 points against Fellbach. What is your most memorable game in the Regionalliga?
My most memorable game was with Schwenningen. It was against Stuttgart. I remember having a horrible first half. I had something like 6 turnovers. Coach Alen didn’t put me down after that first half, but instead believed in me and still gave me a chance to play my game in the second half. In the last seconds, we got a three in the face and we took a time out with 3, 2 seconds to play. He asked us who wanted to take the last shot and nobody said anything. Everything was quiet. Finally I said I would take the last shot. Coach drew up a good play for me. I made the shot and remember the fans going crazy.
You played against so many great players in Lithuania early in your career. What do you remember playing against NCAA champion and ex Chicago Bull Khalid El Amin?
Back in the day I was a big fan of Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller. I remember Khalid being a very stocky player. But It wasn’t so much him who I remember, but actually Sonny Weems. He was so amazing. I will never forget his incredible alley-oop dunks. My head was where his knees were. I played against him and a few days later I would watch him playing a Euroleague game. Knowing you played against a guy like him a few days earlier really motivated you for the next game.
You played against a very young Jonas Valanciunas in Lithuania. Did you think then that he would reach the NBA?
No never. He was so skinny then. I had no idea that he would become such a big star. He developed so much in 1-2 years. I would of thought he could reach the Eurocup or Euroleague, but not the NBA. I played against so many guys where I would never have thought they would have reached the NBA. One guy I will never forget is Dejuan Collins. He wasn’t the biggest athlete, but so smart. He was also a great organizer. He could beat you with one step and hold you with his body. He was very hard to defend. Another guy I will never forget who I played against was Marcus Brown. He was such an amazing shooter. I remember his team played in an old gym. I remember asking our coach to have practice early so we could drive the two hours to Kaunus to watch him play. We got there and watched Marcus Brown and his pre-game shooting practice. The guy hit 49 three’s in a row. There were 5,000 fans and they loved it. At around his 15th three, the fans began shouting loud 15, 16, 17 and it kept going until he made his 49th in a row. All were disappointed when he didn’t make 50. That game he hit for 30. He made such a big impression on me. I remember him hitting a few in your face three’s on me. What could I do? He is the best shooter that I ever saw.
Who wins a one on one in practice you or Justin Stallbohm?
Two years ago, I would kick his butt. Now it would be about 50/50. If I come back in decent shape next season, I will kick his butt again.
Recently American Jonathan Braeger scored 100 points in a Regionalliga game. There was a lot of criticism for the game because Wurzburg had to play with 5 players and only had 3 in the second half and played no defense. The player received a lot of hate for his game. What is your take on it?
I didn’t see the stats. If there is no defense, then it is like a practice. I give him no hate. You still need to play. Anyone would of played. If he did that in a 5-5 game then it would be amazing.
What was the last movie that you saw?
I love movies. But when you have a kid, work and play basketball and want to keep a good relation with your wife, you just don’t have a lot of time. But the last movie I saw was the Witcher.
Thanks Julius for the chat.