From the time he was recruited on Skype by Lengthy Island Lutheran Crusaders coach John Buck, senior Donatas Kupsas has launched into a journey that has taken him from northern Lithuania to being recruited by a number of Division I school applications.
It is a journey that Kupsas has typically needed to tackle his personal, together with his mother and father staying over four,000 miles away within the Lithuanian metropolis of Joniskis. However with the assistance of his teammates and Buck, Kupsas has gone from a thin sophomore who struggled with English, to a assured group captain who has not solely grow to be the star of his group, however has performed for the junior nationwide group in his native Lithuania.
“It’s such an honor,” he mentioned. “You’ll be able to’t ask for higher than that, with the ability to play to your nation.”
Rising up because the son of a truck driver and a clothes manufacturing unit employee, Kupsas didn’t aspire to play basketball. It was not till his father took him to his first basketball apply at age eight that he even started enjoying the game, which is extra standard than soccer in a rustic the place two of infamous basketball dad LaVar Ball’s sons are at present enjoying.
As soon as Kupsas turned 14, he started spending summers working with 1992 Olympics bronze medal winner Romanas Brazdauskis on enhancing his sport. Brazdauskis, who coached a neighborhood basketball group, would work with Kupsas on dribbling, capturing, and perfecting his mid-range shot, together with educating him find out how to be a superb particular person off the court docket.
Kupsas was quickly one of many high rebounders within the nation, averaging 11 boards a sport, and was invited to play within the 2014 FIBA U-16 Championship.
After the event, Kupsas was first recruited by Buck to return to america and play highschool basketball. Kupsas was uncertain at first, as he could be getting into a rustic and faculty system that had been fully completely different from the one he was used to.
As a overseas switch scholar, Kupsas’ first few months in america had been troublesome. He switched by means of a number of host households, all whereas having to shortly modify to solely with the ability to talk in English. At one level, Kupsas mentioned, he needed to combat in opposition to ideas of coming house.
“I had made my determination, so I knew I needed to keep,” he recalled. “I pushed by means of, and I’m glad I grew to become a greater particular person due to it.”
With the assistance of Buck, who labored with him to develop his vary to the three-point line and make it more durable for opponents to protect him, Kupsas dramatically improved as a participant. His eventual mastery of the English language would enable him to grow to be extra of a frontrunner on the group, together with his teammates choosing him as a captain earlier than the beginning of his junior season.
“He has been assured sufficient in his English to not simply use it, however use it to push our group ahead in a constructive method,” Buck mentioned.
For Kupsas, his expertise as a captain is one thing that needed to be discovered. In final yr’s state semifinal sport in opposition to Mount Vernon, together with his group trailing at halftime, Kupsas remained hopeful and completed with 17 rebounds and eight rebounds in a 67-57 win that allowed the Crusaders to advance to the Federation Class AA Finals.
Quick ahead to this season, and the Crusaders have excessive hopes for his or her group and Kupsas after a win in opposition to Sacred Coronary heart wherein he had 21 factors and 10 rebounds.
Earlier this month, he was chosen for the All-Match group on the Seaside Ball Basic in Myrtle Seaside.
The longer term for him appears vivid. His closing objective, to make it to the NBA, is one thing he believes to be in attain.
“Each basketball participant has the dream to go and play professionally,” Kupsas mentioned. “I simply wish to repay my mother and father for the whole lot they did for me.”