by Andrew Miller, Special to the Circuit.
Justas Norvilas is one semester away from getting his MBA at Benedictine. He graduated with a degree in finance last year and is completing his MBA in one year. Norvilas is doing this while playing power forward and center for the Ravens basketball team.
Norvilas is originally from Tauragé, Lithuania, a town of more than 30,000 people in the southwest corner of Lithuania. He spent most of his childhood playing sports with other boys in his neighbor, the two most popular being basketball and soccer.
Norvilas enjoyed a good family life growing up in his hometown. Both of his parents were teachers at a high school and he felt well prepared by the school system there.
“The school system was really well rounded,” Norvilas said. “I never felt like I was limited in my opportunities and it prepared me well for college.”
When he was in 2nd grade, Norvilas attended a music academy for 4 to 5 hours every day after classes and graduated from the academy when he was a freshman in high school. With the diploma, he could teach music if he wanted.
During his high school career, Norvilas attended the local sports academy, which is the equivalent of AAU teams in the states.
“In Lithuania, they (the community) don’t care so much about high school sports,” Norvilas said. “When you played for the sports academy, you represented your town, you would sometimes get scouts at the games, and you would have a lot more opportunities.”
When Norvilas was a junior, he was asked to be a part of a Lithuanian professional team, where he played scant minutes at small forward.
It was on that team that he made connections that brought him to the United States.
“One of my teammates knew a basketball scout and he got me in touch with him,” Norvilas said. “From there I attended a summer camp and then schools could pick scholarships for players based on videos they shot there.”
From those tapes, Norvilas went to Southwest Assembly of God University in Waxahachie, Texas on a basketball scholarship.
“The opportunities in Lithuania for colleges weren’t that great,” Norvilas said. “I knew if I could go to school in the United States, I definitely would.”
Justas spent one year at Southwest Assembly before he decided he wanted to transfer.
“There were a lot of seniors in front of me and the coach was trying to free up some scholarships,” Norvilas said. “My family and I decided it wasn’t an expense we were willing to take on at the time so we looked at other universities.”
Coach Ryan Moody heard about Norvilas from a tape an assistant coach at Southwest Assembly had sent out to other NAIA coaches.
Norvilas had two schools he was considering before he finally chose Benedictine.
“I just prayed consistently,” Norvilas said. “I said ‘God I trust in you’ and I felt that God was leading me to BC.”
While he has been at Benedictine, Norvilas has worked hard to make sure he excels in both school work and basketball.
“He has got to be one of the highest character guys on the team,” said John Mayer, junior teammate. “He has always been willing to help whenever it’s needed and his work ethic is incredible.”
Mayer emphasized the dedication Justas shows to school work.
“Doing a sport while going to school is hard,” Mayer said. “You have to develop time management skills quickly and Justas has mastered that aspect. I know he has a great GPA and he’s such a smart guy.”
Mayer considers Norvilas a lifelong friend and mentor who has helped him develop as a player and person.
“Justas is more than just a great basketball player, he’s just a great guy in general,” Mayer said.
Dr. Donald Hoy, associate professor, is Norvilas’ advisor.
“Justas is a very dedicated young man,” Hoy said. “He has strong ideas about what he wants to do and he is continuously searching for the best way. He will do whatever is necessary to exceed at whatever he does.”
Hoy was very impressed by how well-established Norvilas was when he arrived at Benedictine.
“When you leave your home country, you have to have a sense of self-confidence,” Hoy said. “From the beginning Justas has been very mature in his morals and beliefs. I believe Justas represents the kind of student you hope every BC student would be.”
Now, Norvilas is working full time at Bank of Atchison, helping with risk equating and risk management.
After he gets his MBA, Norvilas isn’t sure where he’ll go or what exactly he wants to do.
“I know wherever I go I want to help as many people as I can,” Norvilas said. “I know I want to stay in the states, there’s a lot more opportunity in the US, but I haven’t decided if I want to move to a bigger city or not.”