Tomas Auruskevicius can emphatically say whenever people see him on campus, it’s the true him.
In fact, he’d encourage anyone and everyone to come up and get to know him.
“Now I just love talking to people,” said Auruskevicius, a sophomore on the men’s basketball team. “I love getting to know people.”
It wasn’t always like this for the Lithuanian-born basketball player. Getting to Regis, Auruskevicius had a long, strange journey in which the highest of highs were followed by the lowest of lows.
It started years ago in Lithuania when as a 17-year-old Auruskevicius hired a handler to help him find a basketball team in the United States. The agent helped him put together a highlight tape and contacted several U.S. high schools.
Finally, a Los Angeles school was interested, and it agreed to pay for Auruskevicius’ room and board plus meals if he agreed to play basketball during his junior and senior seasons.
“I thought, ‘Wow L.A.,’” he said. “I knew about it from the movies.”
When he got to the school in Los Angeles, however, something felt off. Auruskevicius was one of about 100 students, most of whom arrived from other countries. Students were given textbooks and told to read alone as a teacher sat at the front of the classroom. If Auruskevicius had a question, he was referred back to the textbook.
Auruskevicius noticed something about all the other books on the classroom shelves: They all had a single author: L. Ron Hubbard.
“I was at a Scientology school,” Auruskevicius said.
Auruskevicius thought he could ride it out to play basketball. Eventually, however, the nonstop pressure from the church became too much, and he left.
Auruskevicius found another school, this time a high-end private school. Once they heard his story, they offered him room and board, housing him with a host family. Unfortunately, stress fractures in both feet knocked him out for his entire senior year.
Thousands of miles from home, at another school where he felt he didn’t fit in and without a sport to play, Auruskevicius fell into a depression.
“I just wanted to be alone,” he said.
Eventually he went on his senior retreat, where he encountered other youths who felt similarly.
“I was listening and realized, ‘Hey I’m not the only one having issues,’” he said.
Finally, toward the end of his senior year, Auruskevicius’ feet had healed. Regis coach Brady Bergeson already had recruited several players from the same high school and was wrapping up his recruiting trip that spring when he saw Auruskevicius’ moves on the court. It prompted one more offer – to Auruskevicius to play basketball for Regis on scholarship.
Auruskevicius didn’t know what to expect, but he found serenity on Regis’ campus. He said the environment felt right, and that Regis was where he was supposed to be.
“It’s easy to look back now and say, ‘I’m glad I went through it.’ But I’m just blessed to have it in my past,” he said. “It did work out in the end. It’s taught me to spread love and be good to people. That all ties into gratefulness. I have this amazing opportunity here. I’m going to pay that gratitude forward.”