By DAN KAUFFMAN
8:38 PM EST, January 26, 2012
St. Maria Goretti sophomore Severija Narkute knows all about passion for basketball.
Narkute is an exchange student from Lithuania, an Eastern European country that loves its hoops. Its men’s national team has finished no worse than fourth — and has three bronze medals — at the last five Summer Olympic Games.
Players such as center Arvydas Sabonis, who played for the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA for several years in his 30s, and Sarunas Jasikevicius, who starred at the University of Maryland, are household names in Lithuania.
Now, Narkute is making her mark for the Gaels, leading the team in scoring at 16 points per game.
“I knew I had to come here and play as good as I can and show everything I can do on the court,” Narkute said after Goretti’s victory over Highland View on Jan. 17. “I know I have to push all my game and make us better.”
Narkute joined the Gaels with a well-developed skill set learned back home, and she admits she was “selfish” in early-season games. She scored 35 points in the season opener against Fulton County Community Christian and averaged 25.8 points per game in Goretti’s first four contests.
“The first couple games of the year, she would have forced it even if she was 1-on-2, 1-on-3, whatever, she would still take it to the hole,” said Gaels assistant coach Mike Murray — who filled in for head coach Todd Rideout while he was out with a health issue. “She had six assists (against Highland View), and that’s how we succeed.”
Narkute has attempted to open up her game and be more of a distributor while also scoring her points — a team-first mindset that’s very common in European play, and one that helped the Gaels win 13 of their first 18 games — including nine straight after a 4-4 start.
“All European players, we play team basketball, especially in Lithuania,” Narkute said. “Coming here, we didn’t have a good team. I was scoring all the points, but I didn’t want to do that.”
We’re all getting better and now we’re all scoring. ... We just want to win. We don’t think about losing, we just play our best.”
“Is she one of our top girls? No doubt about it. But our other girls can play,” Murray said. “We have five girls at different times who can score in double figures. It makes us a tough matchup.”
The adjustment to the American culture and language has been difficult at times for Narkute, but she accepts it as part of the process.
“It was a different language, so it’s a little hard, but it’s so awesome,” Narkute said. “The girls are so nice, and everybody’s supporting me. I miss my family and my friends, but I think that’s normal. They miss me.”
“It was definitely a bit of a culture shock for her,” Murray said. “She didn’t know how to take American humor. She has taken it all in stride and seems to enjoy being with these girls.”
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