UTC Mocs' Martynas Bareika bulks up for inside battle

UTC Mocs' Martynas Bareika bulks up for inside battle

October 16th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC guard Martynas Bareika runs a passing drill at McKenzie Arena.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

Casey Jones seems to be a perfect fit for Will Wade at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The first-year basketball coach used words such as "long," "athletic," "rangy" and "quick-twitching" to describe the 6-foot-5 sophomore who will play a wing position in the new up-tempo and pressing system.

Those same adjectives don't exactly fit 6-5 junior Martynas Bareika who played an average of 14.3 minutes in the Mocs' 32 games last year.

But that's OK.

"He can have a role, a big role, and he can do things that will really help us," Wade said. "He's a better athlete than people give him credit for We're putting in a package for him to get open looks at the basket. He's a really good shooter."

Part of the transition to a new coach involves playing a new position for Bareika heading into his junior year. He's no longer a small forward.

He's a power forward or the "Madman" in Wade's vocabulary -- a smaller 4-man who creates offensive mismatches on the perimeter, flies all over the floor on defense and has a limited role guarding back-to-basket post players.

"I feel that it's going to be way better than playing a [small forward] because I'll hopefully get shots from the 3," said Bareika, who spent about two months this summer at home in Lithuania. "I can guard a big man. I don't mind that."

The offseason training under new strength coach Greg Goldin helped Bareika add about 15 pounds to his frame and get him in better condition and a little bit stronger.

Bareika averaged 3.2 points and shot 30.6 percent from the 3-point line playing strictly on the perimeter. This upcoming season he'll have to be in the paint some on defense yet rarely on offense and even less with his back to the basket. That's not his skill set and not what he's working on.

"I didn't see him a bunch on film, but it took about 10 minutes of watching him in the gym to know he can shoot and help us," Wade said. "I think he feels comfortable with what we're doing and why we're doing it."

That basketball IQ makes up for what he lacks compared to Jones and players Wade is recruiting.

"He's an intelligent guy and he uses his instinct to help his quickness and anticipation," Wade said. "He's figured out where the ball is going.

"He's got a role within the program and he can help us win over his last couple of years here."

The first game is Nov. 8 against Covenant. Bareika knew the date off the top of his head.

"To learn the system to you just have to play it and play it hard," he said. "You're going to mess up, but as long as you play hard, you should be good."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.