Why European import 'Gigi' is already warming to Ipswich
WITH a name meaning amber, as in a gemstone, Gintare "Gigi" Mazionyte is already proving a valuable jewel in this year's Ipswich Force side.
In just her third state league game, the Lithuanian national squad member top scored in Ipswich's latest 94-59 victory over Toowoomba at Llewellyn Stadium.
Mazionyte's committed effort helped Ipswich preserve its unbeaten five-game record in a Friday night match Force dominated from start to finish.
All Force's regular players contributed, with Mazionyte leading the way with 11 points in each half.
But settling well into her new Ipswich environment, the proud Lithuanian basketballer displayed her team-minded qualities.
"As long as we're winning, I'm fine with that,'' she said.
"Everything has been pretty good so far. I like it here.
"It's a different time to adjust to Australian basketball but I think everything feels good and the team are helping me a lot.''
Mazionyte, who turns 27 next month, lives in a beachside town called Palanga in Lithuania.
She accepted her opportunity with head coach Brad George at Force through her friend who plays basketball in Darwin.
"I wanted to come last year but it didn't work out because of the national team,'' she said.
"So this year, Brad asked me if I wanted to come and I said yes.''
She's been in the Lithuanian youth national team since she was 16.
Last year, she was recruited to the national open team, involved in training camps preparing for the European championships.
The 186cm tall import previously played in Sweden, Italy, Spain and Lithuania.
"When I return home, I will be playing somewhere in Europe,'' she said, expecting another stint in Spain.
On her first trip to Australia, she's communicating well, except for trying to understand some Aussie slang words.
"I have to listen what people say. I have to really concentrate because of the different accent,'' she said.
"But it's been good so far.''
Gigi has already tried Vegemite while staying with head coach Brad George and his wife Marney, who manages the team.
"I haven't really totally worked what Australian food is all about. It's a mixture of different cuisines I guess,'' she said.
"I tried Vegemite. I like it on a sandwich.''
Mazionyte said the Queensland league presented some new challenges to her familiar European style of play.
"I always knew that Australian basketball was physical, a lot of running,'' she said.
But she welcomes being part of the promising Ipswich team "because I'm used to team basketball and that's what European basketball is all about.
"So the main difference is I have to run more,'' she said.
Although she's graduated from the University of Texas in Austin, she's concentrating on playing full-time to develop her career and appreciate the extra benefits.
"Right now, I'm just enjoying my basketball career,'' she said.
"I can travel. I can meet new people, see different coaches.''
She rates exploring new places one of her favourite hobbies.
"I like travelling a lot. I have my backpack and usually on a free day I go somewhere,'' she said.
"I like to read. I enjoy learning.
"If it's seeing something new, I'm down for that.''
She's already been to the Gold Coast and plans a trip to Darwin this week to see a friend while Force have a bye weekend.
"I'm hoping after the season, I will have some time to travel around,'' the personable player said.
"I also one want to visit New Zealand.''
As for her home country, she said it was a friendly country like Australia.
"It's a place of difference, different culture, different people, different history but I love Lithuania,'' she said.
"I love going home. Because I live by the beach so I feel like it's the best place on Earth.''
Although it's a "really hot'' 27-30 degrees in her home town, she's handling Ipswich's cooler temperatures well.
"I enjoy this weather because before coming here I was in Sweden up in the north so it was below zero,'' she said.
"So everything above zero was fine for me.''
State of play
QBL women: Ipswich Force 94 (Gintare Mazionyte 22, Georgia Williams 18, Rachel Mate 14) def Toowoomba 59 at Llewellyn Stadium.