Dream continues for basketball alumnus

Former Youngstown State University basketball standout Vytas Sulskis is competing in the highest Lithuanian and Baltic basketball leagues after six years of playing basketball in the U.S.

While he is a rookie in the Lithuanian league, the 23-year-old native of Vilnius, Lithuania, is no stranger to the game he’s played since childhood. His aunt was an Olympic basketball medalist; his sister is a professional player in France; and his father is a former player.

This season, he has a chance to compete against NBA players as a member of the Kedainiai Triobet.

During the season, Sulskis will play against former Toronto Raptor Sonny Weems. He plays for the Lithuanian team Kauno Zalgiris, along with Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets.

“I’m definitely looking forward to that experience,” Sulskis said.

Sulskis said he never thought he would play in the U.S. after high school. At 16, Sulskis, who knew little English, moved to Florida to better combine studying and playing basketball.

“I knew I always can get back to Lithuania to my family, but I loved it from day one and never regretted the decision,” Sulskis said.

Sulskis’ size and ability immediately enticed Jerry Slocum, head men’s basketball coach at YSU.  

Sulskis led the Penguins last year with 392 points, averaging 13.1 points per game. He was also named the YSU/Vindicator Athlete of the Year.

“Here is a kid that worked hard every day, was respectful, went to class, was a 3.0 student, loved basketball and loved YSU,” Slocum said. “Guys like him are what’s good in athletics, and it’s what keeps coaches going that have done this a long time.”

Slocum said Sulskis made the commitment after graduation to stay in shape and work hard.

“Once you go and play that next level up — whether it’s the NBA or overseas basketball, [or] any time you play professionally — it becomes a lot more about strength and size,” Slocum said.

Sulskis said he is having fun living out his dream.

“Basketball here in Europe is a lot more physical, and players are very smart,” he said. “Here, all the players are good, and in any game they can come out and score.”

Sulskis’ team is working to be one of the eight — out of 12 — teams to qualify for May’s Lithuanian league playoffs.

“I am just happy for him,” Slocum said. “I think it speaks that if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams. He worked hard enough to do those things.”