In the third edition of The On Deck Pod, I’m joined by RBHS basketball player Paul Zilinskas to discuss his journey from Lithuania to the United States and how basketball has taken him places he only dreamed of as a child. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts (LINK: HERE) or PodBean (LINK: HERE).

Highlights from the episode

Zilinskas was 6 years old when he and his mother moved to Chicago from Lithuania. He faced the challenge of adjusting to a new culture and trying to catch up with his peers from an educational standpoint.

“In school, everyone seemed to know what they were doing, and I felt kind of lost since the communication was different for me,” said Zilinskas. “I really wanted to fit in at the time because I felt lost and didn’t know what I was doing at the time. As I got older and I went through elementary school, I started to feel more comfortable and I got some friends. Basketball was the thing that got me more friends at school, which was a really good barrier to kind of break through.”

Zilinskas’ mother, Vilia, was a professional basketball player in Lithuania before she decided to move her and Paul’s life to the United States. She trained him with her vast knowledge of the game and ended up writing a book called, “Basketball Can Change Your Life: A Comprehensive Guide for Coaches, Parents, and Students of the Game.”

In the book, Vilia breaks down how to execute the fundamentals of basketball and uses pictures of Paul when he was a child as visuals. However, the book also discusses the importance of leadership and the mental aspect of the game which makes it a well-rounded guide for parents to use for their children as they age into serious basketball players.

Paul, who read the book right after its release in 2017, still takes some of the lessons his mom outlines in the book with him including his shooting form, which looks exactly the same as it does now.

“[The pictures] are a little bit embarrassing because I was so little,” said Paul. “But the shooting form you talked about hasn’t changed. It has been there since I was a kid. My mom taught me how to shoot the correct way and it has stayed and helped me throughout my whole career.”

That shooting form and his natural scoring prowess started to get Paul recognition from college scouts entering his senior season. After playing at Richards Career Academy High School for three years, Paul decided to make the move to RBHS to round out his time playing high school basketball and credits his teammates and coaching staff for making that transition easy for him

“There was a lot of uncertainty going into that transfer and [it was] my last season. Senior year [was going to be] very important,” said Zilinskas. “But I felt like RB was going to be the right fit for me.”

He continued to talk about the basketball fit for his playing style and how the team worked well together.

“There was tons of ball movement, we played together. Coach Reingruber does an excellent job in maintaining the team and, even though there was a lot of uncertainty and it was a scary process not knowing anyone when I got there, I still strongly believe in the decision.”

As of last week, Paul, a senior, had accepted a scholarship from Quincy University to play basketball for them next year. At Quincy, he will get an opportunity to do what he does best: score the basketball.

“Quincy Coach [Ryan] Hellenthal mentioned to me that they really needed a scorer and a shooter … a player of my type,” said Zilinskas. “I think that’s where I kind of fit into the rotation. During my visit, I got to play with the guys and the whole team in a scrimmage, and I think I fit in well in that short time period, which is what the coaching staff said also. I felt like I was a part of the team, and it was just really fun to get along with the guys, play with them and show what I can do.”