Where UE freshman Egidijus Mockevicius is now — about 40 days into his first college semester and away from his native Lithuania — Rokas Cesnulevicius found himself this time a year ago.
It was a process the duo planned to go through together, when they initially decided to come to the United States at the same time.
“He was kind of afraid, and so I just went to high school here,” Cesnulevicius said Thursday at UE’s men’s basketball media day. “I went to college, and we were always talking, and he said, ‘I think now I want to come to the United States.’ I talked to coaches, and somehow he came here.”
The two played on the same team and lived together at one point in Lithuania. It’s for reasons more than that — a striking resemblance due to similar tall builds and blond hair — that Cesnulevicius jokingly referred to Mockevicius as “my brother” on Thursday, a day after the NCAA cleared Mockevicius to play this season and granted him four years of eligibility.
The sophomore Cesnulevicius is 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds. UE lists the freshman Mockevicius at 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds.
“He’s a very nice guy, and I feel he has a good heart,” Cesnulevicius said. “He fits here well, because everybody here cares about each other and has each other’s backs.”
Cesnulevicius said the American college game compares better to the European national circuit than professional basketball — advantage Mockevicius.
The Aces will need a presence this season in the post. Last year they ranked 294th nationally in scoring defense (72.7 points per game), 313th in rebound margin (minus-5.3 per game), 329th in blocked shots (1.7 per game) and 33rd in field-goal percentage defense (48.6 percent).
“He’s going to help us with size, rebounding and playing with our backs to the basket,” Cesnulevicius said, “because we were missing that last year.”