Jonas Valanciunas is a Lithuanian Basketball player who made a name for himself in Europe before heading to the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 2012 to join the Raptors. The towering center, who has built a reputation for always aiming to achieve a double-double, already has his name on record for the most double-doubles by a Raptors player in the franchise’s playoff history.
Jonas Valanciunas was born to Jonas Vilkas and Danute Valacniunas on the 6th of May, 1992 in Utena, Lithuania. His parents were never married and he was raised by his mother, which is the reason why he bears her surname.
While growing up, Valanciunas was always the tallest person among his peers. He got those genes from his father who was also quite tall and was a rowing champion in the former Soviet Union. Due to his height, Valanciunas was introduced to basketball and he never looked back from the first day he got to bounce a ball. He played for a few local teams and found himself to be very good at the game, prompting him to begin to take the sports seriously.
As a 14-year-old, Valanciunas found himself making headlines and attracting national interest as the next big thing. He first enrolled at Vilnius Basketball School after which he was called up to represent his country at the 2007 European Under-16 Championships in Greece. Valanciunas failed to make much of an impact with the side in Greece but, however, when he returned to the same tournament in the following year in Italy, he dominated by averaging 14.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks, guiding his team to the gold medal as he was named MVP.
Jonas Valanciunas began his professional career after that tournament, joining second-tier Lithuanian team Perlas Vilnius. He helped the team gain promotion to the top tier league in just under one season before moving to Lithuanian powerhouse Lietuvos Rytas in 2010. He played and won several trophies during his two-year spell with the side after which he decided to take his talents to the NBA.
Valanciunas was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. He spent one more year in Europe before signing a contract in July 2012 and announcing himself to the NBA universe by recording a double-double in his debut game. He went on to average 8.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in 62 games. Before the 2013-14 season, Valanciunas opted to play in the Las Vegas Summer League where he was named MVP. He went on to play in 81 games in the following season, averaging 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds to help his team secure the number 3 spot in the Eastern Conference to make his playoff debut, although the Raptors were swept in the first round.
By August 2015, Valanciunas had proven to be pivotal to the Raptors who moved to extend his stay on a four-year contract worth $64 million. He repaid the faith shown in him by helping the team to a 50-win season for the first time in its history. The team also enjoyed its deepest playoff run ever after it reached the Eastern Conference Finals where they were defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Injuries have not been kind to Jonas Valanciunas. He suffered his first notable injury on the 22nd of November 2015 when he fractured his left hand and subsequently had to miss six weeks of action. His next injury came at the worst possible time in Game 3 of the 2016 Playoffs second-round game against the Miami Heat. He sprained his right knee in the game and had to sit out the next eight games which included the first four games of the Eastern Conference Finals. His presence was missed by his teammates who were eventually beaten in six games.
Jonas Valanciunas’ Wife
Jonas Valanciunas is married to fellow Lithuanian, Egle Valanciunas (nee Acaite). She is the daughter of prominent Lithuanian lawyer turned politician Remigijus Acas and wife Vida, who is an economist and politician as well. Remigijus Acas might be best known for the impeachment proceedings against President Rolandas Paksas.
Jonas and Elge, who reportedly runs a shopping website, met each other in 2013. They dated for one year before going on to exchange vows in 2014. Together, they have a son named Jonas Jr. who was born on the 12th of March, 2014.
Height And Other Facts
Jonas Valanciunas is currently the tallest player on the Toronto Raptors roster with a height of 7 feet 0 inches or 2.13 m.
In 2013, he was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Before that, he won several awards back home, including EuroCup Rising Star, FIBA Young Player of the Year (2011, 2012), and Lithuanian Player of the Year (2011, 2012, 2014, 2017), among many others.
With his national basketball team, he has won accolades at different age levels of the game, beginning from the European Youth Olympic Festival where he won Gold in 2007 to the 2015 EuroBasket where he won silver.