Former Michigan basketball standout leaves NBA for Lithuania

Ignas Brazdeikis is going home. The former Michigan basketball standout signed with a pro team in Lithuania, his birth country, after three seasons in the NBA.

The team, Zalgiris Kaunas, announced the signing on Sunday (July 24). Brazdeikis played his freshman season at Michigan in 2018-19 before going pro. He was drafted in the second round and played for three NBA teams, spending last season with the Orlando Magic.

Brazdeikis, 23, was born in Kaunas. Most all of his extended family is Lithuanian. His parents, seeking better job opportunities, moved the family to Chicago when he was 3 and to Ontario, Canada, a couple of years later.

Brazdeikis speaks Lithuanian in addition to English. The press release from Zalgiris noted that he “regained his Lithuanian citizenship last year.” He made his Lithuanian national team debut earlier this month, averaging 14.5 points and 3.5 rebounds over two World Cup qualifier games. That team’s coach, Kazys Maksvytis, also coaches Zalgiris.

“We have been following Ignas for a few years now and wanted to see him in a Zalgiris jersey,” Zalgiris CEO Paulius Motiejunas said in a statement. “Coach Maksvytis has already worked with him, so there are no doubts about his abilities anymore.”

Brazdeikis, then-Michigan coach John Beilein’s first one-and-done player, was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year after leading Michigan in scoring (14.8 points per game). The Wolverines started 17-0 that season, earned a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and lost to Texas Tech in the Sweet 16.

Brazdeikis was drafted in the second round in 2019, 47th overall, by the New York Knicks, who traded up for the pick. Over the next two seasons, the 6-foot-7 guard/forward appeared in 13 games for the Knicks, splitting time with the franchise’s G League team. He was traded to Philadelphia in March of 2021 but appeared in just one game before getting cut.

He finished that season with Orlando and played in 42 games for the team last season, averaging five points over 12.8 minutes per game, in addition to G League appearances.

His contract was not renewed, leading Brazdeikis to return to Lithuania for the 2022-23 season, which starts in October.

It’s a popular time for signings in the NBA and overseas. DeVante’ Jones, Michigan’s starting point guard last season, signed with a French team on Monday, while former four-year standout Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman moved from Poland to Italy last week.

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