April 28, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
While the end of a season usually offers student-athletes a chance to catch their breath for a bit, South Carolina's Laimonas Chatkevicius doesn't have that luxury. The senior on the men's basketball team is not only preparing for graduation, but also his wedding, next month, while also pursuing a professional career on the hardwood for which he recently attended the 2016 Gotham Hoops Invitational in New York.
"It was fun," Chatkevicius said of his experience at the event. "I enjoyed it for the most part. We were there from 9 (a.m.) to 9 (p.m.). I got to know a few people, and the point guard from my old high school was there. It was really a pleasure to participate in this event."
The Gotham Hoops Invitational was held April 9 at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Chatkevicius hoped to showcase his talents for professional coaches and agents. The student-athletes were put through a series of shooting drills and sprints, and various measurables ranging from vertical leap to wing span were recorded. While his professional path is yet to be determined, Chatkevicius said he wasn't nervous about performing at the event.
"I felt like I've spent so much time playing under such huge pressure in college, so it was no big deal," Chatkevicius said. "There were a lot of agents and some scouts. It was good to expand my horizons as a player, and get a chance to show myself to them. There were coaches from all over the place.
"Being a team player, seeing the floor and playing with my back to the basket are my strengths. Everybody expects me to rebound better. So I guess that would be something I need to do better."
Every one of those games is a good memory for me. I might not ever get that kind of feeling again with 18,000 people watching.
Chatkevicius helped lead South Carolina to match a school record with 25 wins during the 2015-16 campaign while posting 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. His senior season saw him collect some memorable moments, including a 17-point, 10-rebound effort in South Carolina's overtime victory at Ole Miss. He also notched a career high 30 points in the opening round of the NIT versus High Point. Chatkevicius noted that his experience playing at South Carolina for Coach Frank Martin helped prepare him for the next step.
"Most definitely," Chatkevicius said. "Mentally and physically, I was always challenged here. Practices and games were always a challenge. You had to play your best all the time. It was a lot of work. I didn't always like it, but I knew it was the best thing for me."
His best memories of playing for the Gamecocks involve the South Carolina fans; whether it was when the Garnet and Black faithful rushed the floor after an upset win over Kentucky or just the huge crowds that filled the Colonial Life Arena during his senior season.
"Every one of those games is a good memory for me," Chatkevicius said. "I might not ever get that kind of feeling again with 18,000 people watching."
The Lithuanian native obviously has no problem traveling to a different country to play professional basketball, just as he did earlier in his life when he came to the United States for high school and college.
"I've heard that there are some countries that are better for building your career," Chatkevicius said. "Some countries are better just to get more money, but you can't build a career there. So, I need to find the middle where the money is OK, and I can build my career."
Chatkevicius has not signed with an agent yet, and any decisions about accepting offers to play professionally overseas will involve a discussion with his fiancé, Nicole Dehowitt, who graduated from South Carolina last December.
"I have to involve her," Chatkevicius smiled. "We're getting married in May. I have to say the most exciting thing is my marriage of course. I've been waiting for my pro career all of my life, so that's really exciting too, but yeah, my marriage is one of the most exciting things and is a big step in my life."
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