Feb. 28, 2008
By Jeremy S. Fallis `06
As Arvydas Lidzius enters his last two games at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, his thoughts will be not only on the game at hand, tonight against Saint Louis and next week against nationally-ranked Xavier, but also a little closer to home.
"I'm excited because my mom is finally coming [here]," Lizdius said. "She'll get to see Philadelphia and see what it's like in the Fieldhouse. To get that feeling, the intensity and noise of it all, I'm looking forward to it."
Like thousands of others who have visited the Fieldhouse over the years, Danute Lidziene will experience what it's like to visit the famed hall, and at one of the most stirring moments to boot: the final game hosted by the Hawks on Senior Night against Xavier.
Lizdius, whose excitability on the basketball court is always apparent, perked up even more when asked about that night next week.
"Definitely, I can't wait," Lidzius said. "It's here against Xavier, they're a ranked team and in first place. We lost to them [in Cincinnati] in a close match when we should've won; of course I can't wait."
Of course, he'll have to. Lidzius, the 6-9 forward from Kretniga, Lithuania has journeyed a while to achieve some memorable moments here at SJU. The fifth-year senior is the only Hawk left who played during the magical 2003-04 season and even saw some time against Liberty in their first round NCAA Tournament game. After that he was there for SJU's close loss in the A-10 Championship game before redshirting his junior year.
With this season nearly over, reflecting would be easy to do, but Lidzius will have none of that. As one of the consummate teammates and people anyone will meet, "Vydas," as most people know him, is just looking to the next game.
"We have to win this game [against Saint Louis] to get a first round bye [in the Atlantic 10 Tournament]," Lidzius added. "That's all that matters right now."
When asked before the game what his thoughts on last year's loss to the Billikens meant and if there would be any revenge factor that played into tonight's battle with SLU, Lidzius replied decisively.
"I'm just looking forward to beating [Saint Louis] up," he said. "And I've seen [Coach Rick Majerus] on TV before and I've never gotten to play against his team, so it'll be interesting to see how that is. What happened last year happened last year. Last year was a completely different team, so I don't pay attention to it because it's all about this year."
In SJU's 90-83 win at Rhode Island on Sunday, Lidzius played 13 minutes, as Ahmad Nivins ran into foul trouble. It was the third notable fill-in for Nivins for Lidzius, the others being his first career start at Duquesne (16 minutes, two rebounds) and at Xavier (24 minutes, six points, five rebounds), in which he received the most playing time since he joined the Hawks in 2003. He may come off as too selfless at times, but in order to fully appreciate his personality, that selflessness is an aspect of Lidzius that one must accept and appreciate.
"It doesn't really matter to me if I'm going to play 20 or 30 minutes or not play at all," he added. "All that really matters is that we win. It's my last year, and I want to get as much of an experience as I can out of it." As for his expanded role on the team, according to Lidzius, it may be the same thing he was providing the Hawks all along. Except this year, it's been more on the court at crucial times. "I'm just trying to give my team as much energy as I can," Lidzius said. "Right now, I am that energy guy. Everybody is tired and everybody needs a little push to get a little bit better. "I'm trying to do extra things, the little things like trying to take a charge and play the screens or box out and things like that. When I'm on the bench I'm trying to help people and encourage the guys."
At Rhode Island, Lidzius certainly did the little things to help his team. With Nivins and Pat Calathes on the bench with two fouls in the first half, the Hawks extended a small lead to 14 points over the 20-win Rams.
Most of the things Lidzius did, such as playing tough defense and helping run Phil Martelli's time-based offense, don't show up in the box score, but that didn't matter to him. Filling in with the 13 critical minutes helped the Hawks save their legs in the second half and push the lead to 19, a deficit from which the Rams could not recover. To Lidzius, the importance of the game was simple: it was a must-win.
"It was big, we needed that win," he said. "After playing really bad defense against La Salle it helped us to get us a little boost that we needed for the end of the season.
"Right now we have three home games; even with SLU, I don't think it'll be that easy. They gave Xavier a tough time."
And if anything, the Rhode Island win gave this team a bit of confidence and trust, something that at times seemed missing from the Hawks in close losses early in the season and even in A-10 play.
"[The Rhode Island game] gave us a little boost and a little energy," Lidzius pointed out. "The win at URI hopefully now gave the guys the ability to trust each other more and be more confident."
At the same time, the bench play of Garrett Williamson, Idris Hilliard and Lidzius provided valuable rest for the starters down the stretch in Rhode Island. "We'll try harder on defense, that's one of the reasons we lost a couple games like La Salle, Xavier and Duquesne. People were a little tired, so it was tough to play well on defense."
Coming down the homestretch of the season, the Hawks wrap up their home slate with tonight's game against Saint Louis, Sunday's against Temple at the Palestra and next Thursday's finale against Xavier. Lidzius expects to play long after that, in the A-10 tournament and beyond, but he is also looking forward to graduation, even if he doesn't know what the future holds for him.
"Half of my family is here in the States in Chicago," Lidzius said. "The other half is back in Lithuania. I already left my family once so that was tough to do, but I don't think I want to do that again.
"At the same time, I have to look for something that is better for me. If I have a better future or can play somewhere overseas and make some money I'll try that. I like traveling and going to new countries."
Before Lidzius can travel to any other countries, he and the Hawks will have to travel to Dayton and Atlantic City at the very least to wrap up the season. After that, their destinations will be determined by their wins--which, if you listen to Lidzius long enough--may be quite a few.