Stepping up on the court
Kriskus pursues a greater goal
Published: Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 23:05
Pick a late night in early September, 2 months before the basketball season begins, and head to the court at Red Auerbach Arena. Odds are, you'll find forward Vytas Kriskus '12 alone in the midst of a shooting drill, running along the baseline from one corner to the other, sinking jump shots and gathering the ball to do it again. Until he makes 100."That's something I do regularly," Kriskus said. "I know a lot of people do [this drill] with a rebounder, but I like to do it myself. The goal is to really get myself going, to start sweating and try to get tired, really, because during a basketball game, you get tired running and it gets harder to make shots. . I just shoot it until I make 100."
Kriskus, a native of Kvedarna, Lithuania, has worked daily on his game to prepare for tonight's season opener at Lasell College and get an edge in his potential professional career after he graduates in 2012.
"The thing with me, I'm hoping to play professional after Brandeis somewhere in Europe, so I just try to get that extra work in to put me ahead of other people hopefully," Kriskus said. "We [the men's basketball team] all try to get in our own personal workouts everyday, and I know guys mix it up, lifting one day and shooting the next day but I try to shoot and lift everyday."
Coming off the bench last season, Kriskus was third on the team in scoring behind graduated guard Kenny Small '10 and forward Terrell Hollins '10. He led the Judges in 3-point shooting and free-throw percentage, dropping 64 3-pointers and converting on 87 percent of his free throws.
This season, Kriskus expects to start, and was named a co-captain with forward Christian Yemga '11 and guard Tyrone Hughes '12, three of the four players returning from last season's roster. Coach Brian Meehan described Kriskus as a "great kid" who will lead by example.
"We think his value as a captain is not so much what he's going to do verbally but it's really setting an example of hard work," Meehan said. "I mean, he takes his workouts very seriously, and his conditioning is off the charts, and then he's still out there taking extra shots and working on his game. What you want is for other guys to see him and say, 'Well, no wonder why he's a good player, look at what he's doing.' You can't fail when you put that much effort into it."
Kriskus played for his country's Under-16 national team until he came to the United States in his second year of high school. He finished school at the Holderness School in Plymouth, N.H. after being recruited to an elite Lithuanian basketball camp run by agent and recruiter Stepas Kairys. Kairys then connected him with Holderness.
In high school, Kriskus was named a McDonald's All-American nominee and was recruited by Division-I colleges like Davidson College in North Carolina and by most Ivy League schools, including Harvard University and Yale University. Ultimately, Kriskus said Brandeis was the most aggressive in recruiting him, and he did not want to wait and "gamble" with the hopes of getting a Division I scholarship.
Kriskus admitted he was over-confident when he first arrived at Brandeis because of his success in high school but said that from the start of his time here, the coaching staff and veteran leadership at the time taught him the right way to approach basketball at the collegiate level.
"I think that a lot of guys think that if you go to a Division III school after being a good player in high school, that you're going to come in and just be an all-star," Kriskus said. "[But] Coach Meehan, that first practice, you go in and he says, 'All those things you learned in high school, forget it. That's not the way basketball is played,' and that's true. The defense is different, the game is faster, so it was hard for me, but I had [forward] Steve DeLuca '08, an All-American, and [guard] Kevin Olson '09, a great player, and they helped me a lot. It was hard playing against them, but it was also a good thing to get me playing against good experienced players my freshman year."
Kriskus has improved throughout his 2 years at Brandeis. In his first season, he scored in double figures five times, but he managed to do so in 17 of 29 games last season. He also scored 20 or more points in five games last season, including a career-high 29 points in the team's opening game of the NCAA Tournament against St. Lawrence University on March 5.
This season, Kriskus thinks that the team has a chance to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament after reaching the Elite Eight in two of the last three seasons but admitted that with only three upperclassmen, the team is in a transition year.
"I definitely think it's a building year, but from what I've seen [of the team so far], I don't think it'll take the whole season to build," Kriskus said.
As for his professional aspirations, Kriskus plans to again play for his country and try out for his national team in time for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. He said that staying in touch with Kairys and having friends who currently play professionally in Europe will help him after he graduates in 2 years.
Kriskus knows that his game still needs work, though, specifically noting his quickness and defense as weaknesses, but he said partially jokingly, that his friends from home have given him the confidence he'll need to make it professionally.
"I think I can play," Kriskus said. "As I said, I have friends who play in Europe, and in the summer, I go home, and we play, and I kick their butts. So I hope I'm good enough.