By Ed Morrone
When speaking to Hofstra sophomore swingman Zygis Sestokas, the first thing noticeable is how much his English has improved. After a strong showing in the fourth place game in the Great Alaska Shootout, the Lithuanian's language is not the only facet he has improved in.
In Saturday's 75-65 win over Alaska-Anchorage, Sestokas buried six three-pointers (five in the first half) for 18 points in displaying a shooting touch that brought some fire to Alaska's freezing cold atmosphere. His clutch shooting took some of the burden off of Loren Stokes and Antoine Agudio, who are already trying to do more than usual as they wait for Carlos Rivera to find his shooting touch. Sestokas pitched in at exactly the right time, helping his team escape Alaska with two straight wins.
"Offensively that's his strong suit, shooting the basketball," head coach Tom Pecora said. "What we need from him is a better job defending in the post and rebounding the basketball. We want him to become a complete player, and he's working hard to get there."
Getting there will probably take some time, especially considering Sestokas has to get used to his increased playing time (in five games he's averaging over 28 minutes per game as opposed to barely seeing the court last season as a freshman). Also, because of injuries and the need to start Stokes, Agudio and Rivera, Sestokas is also playing out of position. At 6-5, he is not the ideal post player, but considering how well he's played so far and because of how thin the frontcourt is, odds are he will remain in that spot even when Chris Gadley fully returns from a concussion that has kept him out of three of the first five games. However, he's looked good so far, averaging just over 10 points per game.
"I think my role has changed a little bit compared to last year when I didn't play a lot of minutes, but I still have to be a better rebounder and defender which is what the coaches want from me," Sestokas said, echoing Pecora's wishes. "I know I have to get better to help the team win and I'm always working on my weaknesses."
One thing does remain clear: Sestokas' English isn't a weakness anymore and by the looks of him so far this season, his game isn't too shabby either.