A ‘Rok’-Solid Career
In four years at Hofstra, Rokas Gustys – or as he’s better known on campus – “Rok,” has made quite the impact on Hofstra basketball.
Gustys came to the United States from Lithuania, spending two years at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, hoping to get the opportunity to step on the court of a Division I college basketball program.
Now, six years after coming to the U.S., not only has Gustys reached the collegiate level of basketball, but he also leaves it as one of the most prolific rebounders in Division I history, cementing himself as one of the greatest players to ever walk through Hofstra’s halls.
In four years with the Pride, Gustys racked up 1,305 rebounds to finish as Hofstra’s all-time leading rebounder; he further put up 1,184 points to crack the Top 25 in the school record books.
“I would lie if I said I expected that, but definitely coming to this school, it was my goal to be one of the best to ever suit up for Hofstra,” Gustys said.
Although experience on the Lithuanian U-18 national basketball team undoubtedly gave Rokas an advantage stepping up from the high school level, nothing can quite prepare an athlete for getting accustomed to the Division I level like stepping into the action themselves, and that’s just what Gustys did early in his Hofstra career.
As a freshman, while Gustys started only five games, he averaged 16.5 minutes of playing time – a pretty hefty number for a freshman – during which Gustys averaged 5.2 points per game while securing 5.7 rebounds. Though not a staggering amount, his rebound total was enough to lead all CAA freshmen in rebounding.
“My freshman year was tough battling with injuries, but I feel like I still did all right in 16 minutes of play,” Gustys said.
As a sophomore, he was able to more than double his average in each category, scoring 13.5 points per game while also grabbing 13 rebounds.
“In my sophomore year, I kind of exploded. It was really good, and I was happy and really enjoying playing basketball,” Gustys said.
For the rest of his tenure at Hofstra, Gustys managed to stay in double digits in both rebounding and scoring, making himself known as a double-double machine throughout the NCAA. He finished his career with a total of 48 double-doubles.
Since emerging in his sophomore season, Gustys has finished as one of the nation’s top three rebounders in all three years, becoming only the third player to nationally rank in the top five in rebounding for three consecutive seasons since 1996.
In each of these three seasons, Gustys also finished in the CAA’s top three in field goal percentage, leading the way in two of those seasons at first place.
“I feel like I just got more mature and a greater understanding of the game. I became a leader and trusting of myself more in situations in the post,” Gustys said. “I feel like my jump shot got better, my post game got much better and defensive concepts as well.”
With improvements in his game and statistics to back it up, the accolades started piling up.
Gustys earned All-CAA honors twice, CAA All-Defensive team once and finished his senior year as a National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District second team pick.
Perhaps most impressive of all, Gustys was named to the Karl Malone Award Watch List as a senior, a list composing of the 21 best collegiate power forwards in the country. The star-studded list is announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Still, as is often forgotten about collegiate athletes who stand out on the field or court, they also have their academic workload, just as any other college student does.
With two All-Academic selections, and on pace to earn two degrees by the end of the spring semester, Gustys has successfully balanced stellar academics alongside his superior play.
“In six weeks, I get my two degrees in four years. Not a lot of people can do that, so I’m really proud. It’s not all about basketball. Being a student-athlete is great. A lot of players don’t appreciate that, but I really do,” Gustys said.
Even as his undergraduate degree in rhetorical studies and his master’s degree in public relations give him the ability to entertain different career paths, Gustys doesn’t see basketball taking a side role anytime soon.
In the near future, Gustys says he sees himself signing with an agent, going to tournaments and showcases, playing well and staying healthy.
After accomplishing his lofty goal as an incoming freshman of being one of the best players to suit up for the Pride, no goal seems out of reach for Gustys as he embarks on the next level of his journey.
“I’m going somewhere to play hopefully next year and make some money,” Gustys said. “For now, as long as my body’s good and my joints are good, basketball’s going to be my job for the future.”
While many fans loyal to the Pride will continue to follow his progress and career endeavors, anyone who saw even a glimpse of Gustys in the low post knows the impact that No. 11 had on the Pride court and the legacy he is leaving behind within its walls.