Maldunas ’15 lends international flavor to men’s hoops squad
By Casey Dennis
Published on Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Basketball player Gabas Maldunas ’15 has made quite the name for himself within his first few months on campus. The 6’8”, 225-pound forward has won Ivy League Rookie of the Week three times this season after working his way into the starting lineup after only four games. Maldunas is now Dartmouth’s leading scorer with 9.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Prior to Dartmouth, Maldunas grew up in Lithuania, a country he left three years ago when he was a sophomore in high school. He came to the United States seeking a future in basketball and an Ivy League education. He attended Holderness School in Plymouth, N.H., where he played varsity basketball for three years under coach Tony Mure. At first, Maldunas had difficulty adjusting to the competition in the United States.
“When I came here as a sophomore, I was only 15 years old,” Maldunas said. “I was also much smaller than I am now, about 6’4” and 180 pounds. My high school was in a good league that produced many [Division-I] players. It was hard adjusting from European play to American play.”
Making the situation more difficult was the fact that Maldunas wasn’t completely fluent in English. This, coupled with being so far from his family, made for a hard transition. However, after his sophomore year, a teammate, Alex Francis, now the leading scorer at Bryant University, reached out to him.
“Alex really helped me with basketball,” Maldunas said. “One year older than me, he pushed me every day in practice and made sure I didn’t give up.”
Ever since then, Maldunas has thrived. He had a successful junior season and served as team captain as a senior. He was selected as a McDonald’s All-American Nominee and received an All-New England Class AA honorable mention. For his leadership, Maldunas was given the coach’s award at Holderness.
In addition to basketball, Maldunas played two other sports in high school — soccer, emulating his favorite player, Frenchman Zinedine Zidane, and lacrosse.
Over the summers, Maldunas would return to Lithuania to spend time with his family, which consists of his parents, an older brother and a sister. He said that though being apart was tough at first, it shaped the man he is today.
“After leaving Lithuania at a young age and being away from my family, I essentially became a much stronger person,” Maldunas said. “That has helped me become the person I am today.”
Maldunas is enjoying his time at Dartmouth, and he has proved to be one of the Big Green’s key players on the basketball court. Last week, Maldunas posted a double-double against Bucknell University, leading the team in both points (15) and rebounds (10) in a 67-59 home loss on Tuesday. On Saturday, playing on the road against Top-25 team Harvard University, he contributed 15 points and nine rebounds. That contest marked the fifth time Maldunas has been Dartmouth’s top scorer this season.
Maldunas said that taking manageable classes has helped him balance academics and athletics in his first year at the College.
“Everything is great,” Maldunas said. “I like our team. We really get along well, and we have a good freshman crew. We all hang out and we don’t have any problems in the locker room. I don’t get to have a huge social life, but that’s sacrificed with the amount of time put into schoolwork and basketball.”
Off the court, Maldunas enjoys watching TV — particularly “Friends” and “Prison Break” — comedy movies and his favorite NBA player, Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. Also musically talented, Maldunas enjoys playing the piano in his spare time. Academically, Maldunas hopes to pursue a major in economics.
Maldunas hopes that the Big Green (3-13, 0-1 Ivy) finishes the season on a strong note. The team has won just two Ivy League games over the past two seasons, a total that Maldunas would like to surpass in 2011-12.
“My biggest goal right now is for us to win two games in a row,” he said. “It’s something we haven’t been able to do yet this season. I feel like we will take a step in a good direction if we can accomplish it.”
Dartmouth is hoping to snap its six-game losing streak on Saturday against Longwood University. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Leede Arena.