In Lithuania, basketball is much more than just a sport.
“It’s called our religion,” St. John’s freshman Tomas Jasiulionis said.
Considering Jasiulionis’ love of basketball, it only seems natural that he would choose to play in the country that invented the sport.
American basketball is different from European basketball. In the U.S., Jasiulionis said, the focus is on the individual and how well one person can play. In Europe, however, the focus is on the entire team.
“St. John’s is like that,” Jasiulionis said. “St. John’s has teamwork.”
This focus on teamwork was one of the most important factors in Jasiulionis’ decision to attend the school.
He knew he wanted to play for a team that understood the importance of the team as a whole, and he found that in St. John’s.
“I’m very comfortable playing with my team,” he said. “Me and my teammates, it’s like a big family. You know they’re going to be there for you when you need them.”
St. John’s coach Norm Roberts agrees with Jasiulionis that teamwork, and the chemistry of the team, is a key element to success on the court.
“The bottom line,” Roberts said, “is that St. John’s wins. I believe our guys understand that, but it is still something we’re going to work through and hopefully it will bring us closer together as a team.”
And while Roberts’ focus is on the team as a whole, he already has high hopes for Jasiulionis.
“He has a very good touch and [is good at] passing the basketball,” Roberts said.
However, it is more than just Jasiulionis’ raw talent that will play a role in his athletic career.
“Tomas brings a great enthusiasm everyday,” Roberts said. “That’s what attracted us to him. He’s such a good person. I think he’s going to be very successful.”
The 6-foot-11 center grew up in Lithuania and moved to the United States at the age of 17 to finish high school and have a chance to play Division I basketball.
He was both an honors student and a star basketball player at Trinity Episcopal High School in Richmond, Va. Now, Jasiulionis must adapt to the rigorous world of a Big East team.
“It’s a different speed,” he said. “There are a lot of talented guys around. It’s more about commitment. If you want to adjust, you can adjust.”
And adjusting should be no problem for Jasiulionis, who spent part of his summer in Moscow playing on the Lithuanian team in the European Under-20 Basketball Championships.
It is, as he said, all about commitment. And Jasiulionis is willing to make the commitment to get what he wants from the sport he loves.
“I just love the game,” he said. “I can’t get enough.”