Billy Baron, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year for Canisius, will bring his basketball talents ... to Lithuania.
Baron, who averaged 24.4 points a game for Canisius last season, has agreed to a one-year contract with no option with the Lietuvos Rytas team based in Vilnius, the capital of the Baltic nation.
The Rytas’ Eurocup season will begin in October, but Baron will head for Lithuania next month for several weeks of preparation for the Lithuanian League and Euroleague seasons.
Although not drafted by an NBA team last month, Baron was signed by the Chicago Bulls and spent the last two weeks playing for their NBA Summer League team in Las Vegas.
Baron averaged a little more than 18 minutes and 5.6 points a game for the Chicago entry, which also included NCAA scoring leader Greg McDermott of Creighton.
Playing point guard, Baron had a 3-to-1 assist to turnover ration, but did not have an impressive shooting performance as the Bulls went 5-2 in Las Vegas. Baron shot only 27.2 (9 of 23) overall and 26 percent (5 of 19) from three-point range. His highest point output was 11 points in 19 minutes in a 86-70 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers entry.
“It was really good experience,” Baron said Tuesday back in Rhode Island where he spent most of his youth while his father, Jim, was head coach at the University of Rhode Island.
“Fortunately I got to play with some good guys. I learned a lot, like how the defenses play things. I talked to a lot of people with NBA Experience so I took a lot out of that. Not many four-year college players make the NBA right away so the odds were against me. The Bulls said they will keep tabs on me in Europe and some other teams will, too. I’ll be in a better position to make it next year. The team I’m going to has a great reputation. They do everything first class, then have a great arena.”
Baron’s signing was big news in Lithuania and partially because the Rytas team is owned by a newspaper editor, who is also the team president. Also, with the possible exception of Serbia, Lithuania is perhaps the most basketball-crazy nation in Europe and sends players to the NBA and NCAA college programs.
After failing to add to its two Eurocup and five Lithuania league championships, although it did make the final of the Lithuania Cup, the Rytas are undergoing a shakeup. They recently signed coach Virginijus Seskus away from rival Prianei and signed some veteran players with championship experience.
The Rytas play home games in the 11,000-seat Siemens Arena and their own 1,700-seat Lietuvos Rytas Arena.