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Lithuanian players say choice was theirs

Lithuanian players say choice was theirs

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LINCOLN — Lithuanian students consider the United States to be “Candy Land.”

Lincoln Parkview seniors Dovydas Burneika, a 6-foot-9 Wayne State basketball recruit, and 6-5 Domas Budrys made that clear Friday while testifying on the last day of a five-day eligibility hearing at the Nebraska School Activities Association offices.

The NSAA, in attempting to make them ineligible this season, has alleged that they played on a university team in their home country and that Parkview coach Garth Glissman, an Omaha attorney, violated the association’s undue influence rules.

Burneika and Budrys were the final witnesses for Parkview’s defense. Glissman considered testifying Friday but did not.

After listening to closing arguments, hearing officer Karen Haase of Lincoln said the school and the NSAA must submit briefings by Jan. 24 in advance of her ruling.

Both players, who said they attended different high schools in Lithuania, were teammates at LCC International University. The sides dispute whether it was a college team.

Two more former Lithuanian players, Justas Grikstas of Norfolk Catholic and Paulius Sakinis of Nebraska City Lourdes, are at high schools that did not pursue hearings. The length of their ineligibility is to be reviewed by the NSAA board of directors once the Parkview case is resolved.

Burneika and Budrys each testified that he came to the U.S. for academic reasons and that neither Glissman, their Lithuanian coach nor a mutual friend of the coaches, New Hampshire prep school girls coach Freddie Petkus, decided the player would made the player’s decision to come to the U.S.

Under cross-examination by NSAA attorney Derek Aldridge, both said the Lithuanian coach, Marius Tamolis, made them aware of the Nebraska school.

If they are cleared to play, Parkview, a Christian school in northwest Lincoln, might contend for the Class D-2 title. The Patriots are 6-4 and ranked fifth this week.

In his 55-minute closing argument, Glissman criticized the NSAA staff and its investigation of a “small, humble private school.”

“I see a clear pattern,” he said. “With due respect, the credibility of the NSAA’s two officers (Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green and Assistant Director Jon Dolliver) involved in the investigation, by virtue of their own testimony, is very questionable.

“The NSAA has no problem with students on F1 visas participating unless they are too good. If they are from a foreign country and so good that they might impact the state tournament, the NSAA will come after you ... to arrive at a predetermined political decision.”

Omaha World-Herald: Nebraska Prep Zone

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