Linas Klieza, the 6-8, 245 pound big forward who has spent the last two seasons at Montrose Christian Academy in the Washington, DC suburbs, put the wide scope of his game on display at this past Thursday's Capital Classic at the MCI Center in our nation's capital.
Kleiza may have been the second most in demand for interviews following the game in which he scored 16 points, pulled down 10 rebounds - seven on the offensive end, had two steals and swished a three-pointer from the top of the key.
The Lithuanian-native remains one of the top senior recruits still uncommitted. But that will be changing during the upcoming week. "It's between Missouri and Florida State," he said. "I'll make my decision next week."
Good news for those remaining two teams while others that been on his list -- Connecticut, NC State, St. John's and Virginia -- had slipped away.
Kleiza, who was publically miffed at not being selected for the McDonald's All-America Game, has excellent fundamental skills with very good hands and a smooth touch for a guy so big. Those offensive rebounds are indicative of his sense for the game. A few questions covered that non-selection, but he was clearly moving on. The present and the future are more interesting.
Coming to the states was a big transition for this young man. "I was really scared when I first got here," he said. That was June 2001. A little less than two years later, Klieza seemed very comfortable on the floor in front of over 18,000 fans as well as under the glare of the TV lights. And he knew that Michael Jordan was in the stands. He wanted to show what he can do. He did.
Asked about that three-pointer, Kleiza's eyes lit up. "That's my game," he smiled. "Playing the perimeter is where I can score."
"This game really wasn't that much different for me," he added. "I play hard all the time, rebound and play defense."
To say he had a good year is an understatement. Montrose Christian, coached by famed prep coach Stu Vetter, was the Washington Post's number one team and USA Today's number 9 prep program this season with a 20-1 record. And Kleiza was the paper's Player of the Year after averaging 20.5 points and 12.2 rebounds.
Either Mizzou or Seminole fans will be happy; the other will join those other top programs that made a good run.