Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 48 of 55 OCT. 23, 2017 49 MEN'S BASKETBALL BY COREY BODDEN F or athletes, the opportunity to represent your home country in international play is quite the honor. It's an achievement most are unable to experience — let alone win a gold medal. Notre Dame senior big man Mar- tinas Geben accomplished both this summer. While most of his teammates were in the United States working on their games and enjoying a tem- porary break from school, the 6-10, 255-pounder was overseas represent- ing his native Lithuania in the World University Games. In mid-July, Geben began his jour- ney at a team camp for the Lithuanian Student National Team with 15 mem- bers participating in an exhibition tour in China. Twelve players would then be selected to represent Lithu- ania in the World University Games. Through his play during the exhibi- tion games, Geben landed a spot on the 12-man roster that competed in Taipei, Taiwan, during the month of August. He started his time in Taipei in style by shattering a backboard during a team practice. But the end of the trip will forever remain more em- bedded for Geben and his teammates. The Lithuanian team started with a win over Israel before falling to Australia 84-82 the following day. Then Geben and his teammates found their groove. Five straight wins over Mozambique, Ukraine, Russia, Argentina and Latvia set up a matchup against the United States (represented by Purdue University) in the gold medal game. When the final buzzer sounded on Aug. 29, Geben and his teammates had knocked off the United States 85-74 to win the coveted goal medal. Geben recorded 12 points and seven rebounds in the victory. "It was completely surreal," Geben told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "We went in with a competitive attitude, but we didn't go in saying we were going to win gold or we wanted to win gold. We wanted to play our best basket- ball and represent the country. "Throughout the process, it hap- pened to be that we won gold. That's the ultimate honor — representing your country at the highest level and winning the highest award. "It was a huge honor and blessing. You don't get a chance to represent your country in international play every summer. When I got the oppor- tunity, it was a no-brainer for me. I'm really happy I was able to represent the country and play well myself, and come out with the gold." Geben also made the most of his opportunity in a bigger role. During three seasons in South Bend, Geben averaged 2.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in just 9.2 minutes per game. In the eight games at Taipei, Geben averaged 10.8 points and 6.9 rebounds in 22.0 minutes per contest. His best performance came in a 112-71 win over Russia, when he scored 20 points and grabbed 11 re- bounds while dishing out four assists. The increased role allowed Geben to develop in several areas. "I had a different and slightly big- ger role on that team. I was able to experience some of that and more of a leadership-based role," Geben said. "It gave me confidence, and I got more game experience against different competition and styles. I think all of that will help me coming into this season. "It was a huge confidence booster. I proved to myself that I can do it, and I think I proved to a lot of people I'm able to do it against great competi- tion on a big stage. Now, it's time to translate that same performance to courts here in the United States." Geben shot 53.1 percent from the floor at the World University Games. His efficiency around the bucket was the biggest takeaway skill set wise for the senior. "I was able to play well there," Ge- ben said of his offensive game during the event. "I did some other things that I haven't really done here on the court as far as more perimeter shooting. "But other than that, just kind of getting better with the current skill set I have." Now that he is back stateside, Ge- ben embarks on another journey: fin- ishing his senior season in style. The opportunity is there for an increased role with the Irish during the 2017-18 campaign. With his confidence soar- ing, Geben is going all out for his final go-around in South Bend. "Just leave it all on the court," Ge- ben said of his senior year. "Give it my best effort and not hold back. I find it that I play best when I have no expectations of myself as far as any numbers or accolades or anything like that. "I want to be the best player I can be on the court and help the team win as many games as possible." ✦ GOLDEN SUMMER Senior Martinas Geben honed his game overseas and brought back a medal Geben helped Lithuania win the gold medal at the World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan, averag- ing 10.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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