LFC Contest / #6 VMU/ Top-Class Lithuanian Basketball stars: "VMU provided opportunities and helped to save our dreams"25/08/2013 19:35:49
Lithuanians are the most passionate basketball loving people in Europe, with basketball being more than religion to Lithuanians. This is the reason why Lithuania is home to many NBA and Euroleague stars. Vytautas Magnus University is located in Kaunas which is known as the basketball capital of Lithuania. Every year the most promising Lithuanian basketball stars choose their studies in VMU.
This article reveals the most important details about top-class basketball players studies in Vytautas Magnus University.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas is a professional basketball player who plays for BC Žalgiris Kaunas, the most famous Lithuanian team. This talented young athlete is also studying at VMU Faculty of Economics and Management. Next year Mindaugas will start his career in Spain as a player of Unicaja, Malaga.
Why did you choose studies at VMU?
M. Kuzminskas: When I was graduating high school, I wanted to study journalism. But then I signed a contract with the basketball team of Šiauliai and moved there, and they didn't offer journalism studies there. Looking at the available options, I chose economics. Two years later I signed a contract with Žalgiris and moved to Kaunas. It seemed to me that Vytautas Magnus University was the most attractive choice here.
What is the best thing your studies gave you?
M. Kuzminskas: Naturally, studying is important, but I also think that it is crucial to know how to apply the acquired knowledge in real life. Some people may be very good theorists but they can't apply that theory in practice, while others are simply smart and have the know-how. I hope that I will be able to put the knowledge learnt at VMU to good use. I'm happy to be here.
At first sight, economics seems to have nothing in common with basketball. But perhaps some of that knowledge still comes in handy, on or off court?
M. Kuzminskas: It does, when I have to calculate my salary. On the whole, you may think basketball is just a game, but it also requires a lot of thinking. Perhaps it's not closely related to economics, but you still have to put some thought into it. It's not like you just run and shoot: there are combinations, tactics, etc.
You've mentioned once that you're interested in investments. What do you invest in?
M. Kuzminskas: I haven't earned enough money to invest in something... I'm just trying to keep my savings diversified, so that they're not all in one place. It's more of a game now, I'm looking into foundations, etc. When I find some spare time, I try to analyze it, to understand how everything works there. If I had more time and money, I would be able to look into it more seriously.
Which game of the Vytautas Magnus University team was the most memorable to you?
M. Kuzminskas: The finals of the Lithuanian Student Basketball League in 2011, which was my first year at VMU. Before that, I had won the second and third place with the Šiauliai University team. But this was the first time I won a championship. It was such a symbolic victory and a successful game for me personally – I was the MVP. We played at Kaunas Sports Hall, which was quite packed, especially for a university-level game.
Perhaps you've had some funny experiences during your studies at VMU?
M. Kuzminskas: Well, there was this one time. I took an exam of a course taught by a young lecturer and somehow forgot about her... Then one day I was walking down the street and she said "Labas" (informal greeting – Ed.) to me and I also said "Labas", thinking that she was an old acquaintance... It was only later that I remembered that she was my lecturer, and it made me feel embarrassed.
VMU Basketball team
Paulius Motiejūnas is CEO of BC Zalgiris Kaunas basketball teem, former executive director of Lithuanian Basketball Federation and VMU alumni. Paulius spoke to us about basketball, politics and the influence of the university in his life.
Why did you choose VMU? Surely, the choice of university wasn’t limited at the time.
P. Motiejūnas: For me as a Kaunas native, it always seemed that VMU is the place to be. I never really considered any other options.
What’s the best thing you took away from your studies at VMU?
P. Motiejūnas: The most valuable thing I took away was the learned ability to adapt to a different environment. The life of a basketball player is fairly simple: play, sleep, eat, play again. But as a student, you end up in a completely different atmosphere. You find yourself surrounded by people who read books and have a curiosity for learning and life. And these people approach life from a different perspective than basketball players. If you’re a player who can “jump” from your usual atmosphere to an academic one, that’s an ability of the highest value. It’s how you extend your horizons and find many new opportunities. I had great professors and colleagues at VMU that I still keep in contact with. It’s still a part of my life.
CEO of BC "Zalgiris" P. Motiejūnas
Mantas Kalnietis, Paulius Jankūnas, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and many other professional athletes have graduated from VMU faculty of Economics and Management and played for the university’s basketball team. What do you think, is the dual-track of sports plus studies primarily influenced by parents or is it more a result of simply thinking ahead?
P. Motiejūnas: That depends on the environment in which you were raised. It used to be really popular to leave for America, where the conditions to both work and play basketball were well-established. These conditions weren’t in place in Lithuania, and not everyone was brave enough to leave for America. So when we created the university team here, our goal was to offer the conditions that allow athletes to both play and study at the same time.
Why do basketball players study at VMU?
P. Motiejūnas: First of all, playing for the VMU basketball team is already somewhat of a legendary accomplishment. You go down in history for each time you win the league championship, the European championship, etc. Second, all of the players talk among themselves about where to enroll. And if you hear someone say, “I’m going where Mačiulis, Kalnietis and Jankūnas studied”, the matter is practically decided right then and there.
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