I got a chance to play in Junior EuroLeague when I was 17. My team won qualification to final four, I was even the MVP. Before the final four, I practiced very hard because I really wanted to win the champion. In one practice, I tried to drive to the basket and the worst thing happened...
My ACL got injured. I went through a big surgery. I was 17 years old then. I was thinking whether my basketball career should stop here. I didn’t know what I was gonna do. Fortunately, my family supported me a lot. Even my mom quit her job to help me recover after surgery. With such big support, I worked hard and came back to the court eventually.
However, I was not given much time to be on the court. Maybe the coach thought that I was still not ready yet. They said,” You're young. Go practice. Sit on the bench. Wait for your time.” When I was 18 years old, “Wait for your time.” When I'm 19 years old, still “Wait for your time, sit on the bench.” When I was 20 years old, still the same, “You have to wait for your opportunity.” I didn't play a lot there. I didn't enjoy basketball. Even at one moment, I was thinking to quit basketball because I went on the court to practice, but I knew I would not play in the game. This was the hardest moment in my life.
Besides, in Lithuania, there are some haters. They know that my dad is a basketball coach. If I played well, that's okay. Everyone said, “Good job.” But after I played one bad game, they started to talk like, “oh, you played bad. You should get out of this team. What are you doing here? It’s your father who pushes you on the court. You don't deserve these minutes. Your father gives you more minutes.” When the dad is the coach, it’s very very hard. Everybody around is talking.
Still, I felt very good when I played with my dad’s team because I had more power to play for the team and for my dad. He gave me a lot of confidence as well. He always told me to shoot, and to shoot 3-pointers. But at the end of the day, it’s very hard to ignore the haters’ words.
Thus, I made the deal to cut the contract. I went to Estonia in 2016 when I was 21 years old. The level is not very high, but I just wanted to raise my confidence. I played a lot in the season. I played as a point guard. I raised my confidence to a very high level. After that season in Estonia, I went back to Lithuania. I played very well then I think.
This year, Taiwan, finally. 今年我終於來到台灣。
In 2017, I came to Jones Cup. It’s my first time to Taiwan. I like the weather, the people, and the nature here. After Jones Cup, I thought, “I want to go back to Taiwan.” Last season, each team could only have one foreigner. Everybody wanted a big guy. I am 192 cm tall, not suitable for being a center. Still, I came to Pauian to play some tournaments with them, but I knew that I was not gonna stay. Nevertheless, the rules changed in this season. I finally got a chance to come back.
Now I am playing for Taiwan Beer. I like the coach. He has conversation with us. He tells us what’s wrong and what’s good. As for on the court, I enjoy shooting 3-pointer. But for me, sometimes it’s more fun to pass. When someone, like rookie, gets the ball and scores the points, he will be very happy. That is more interesting for me than shooting some crazy shots myself. Sometimes the teammates or the coach, they even say, “You have to shoot. Don't always pass.” Sometimes it’s a problem that I'm passing too much. All in all, it's more important that we play like a team. I hope everybody like it. We played well. For fans, they can see a prettier game.
I'm just playing and enjoying my life right now. When I was young, I would think, “Oh next year, I'm gonna play here or there”. But the world is changing so fast. For example, last season I had no chance to play in Taiwan, but now I am here. How should basketball players live? For me, we just have to play hard. Then, somebody will come and offer something.
Also, I always look at things in a positive way. For instance, it hit me hard when I got the ACL injury. Yet, one of the reasons how I met my girlfriend is that she got the same injury like me. So we started to talk. I gave her much information about the injury because I was already healthy at that time. Everything happens for a reason, so just do our best!
這一路走來 | 呂奇旻
圓一個台啤夢 | 于煥亞