A veteran scorer heads home for the first time in more than decade with the announcement Sunday night that Zalgiris Kaunas has signed shooting guard Rimantas Kaukenas for the next Turkish Airlines Euroleague season. Kaukenas (1.92 meters, 35 years old) arrives from Montepaschi Siena, with whom he won five Italian League titles and reached two Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Fours since joining the club in 2005. In fact, Kaukenas is the only player to have his jersey retired by Montepaschi. Despite injures that cut short two of his six Euroleague seasons, Kaukenas is one of the few players to average double digits every season he played the competition. In fact, only 12 players with more than 1,000 points in their Euroleague careers have averaged more than Kaukenas’s 13.2 points per game. Last season, Kaukenas was putting up 14.5 points through the first six Euroleague games when a left knee injury ended his season. He has returned this summer with the Lithuanian national team, with whom he won a bronze medal at the 2007 European championships, and is currently playing in the London Olympic tournament.
Kaukenas left Lithuania as a teenager to play in the United States and spent four seasons at Seton Hall University before turning pro in Europe with Hapoel Galil Elyon of Israel. Next, he returned to his hometown, the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, to play for Lietuvos Rytas before single seasons with Oostende of Belgium and Bonn of Germany. Italy became his second home, first with a season in Cantu, and then six of the next seven in Siena, where he helped Montepaschi create the longest-running dynasty in Italian League history. He also spent the 2009-10 season with Real Madrid of Spain, but returned to Siena after it ended. Now, he will make his second homecoming at age 35 for Zalgiris.