It was the fall of 2013 when a teenage basketball player from Lithuania made a decision that would change the trajectory of his life.
Norbertas Giga had his fears, but he ultimately decided to leave his culture, his family and all of his friends to move to America for an opportunity to pursue basketball.
Fast forward to 2018, and Giga has grown up. Giga has matured as an athlete, of course, but he’s also matured as a person, knowing his experience in America has helped shape him into the man he is today.
“A lot of doubtful thoughts went through my and my family (sic) mind whether I should or not leave them behind and go chase my dream,” Giga wrote on Twitter in July.
Giga explained the very lonely, difficult transition into an American preparatory high school in New Jersey. He didn’t speak English, but managed to stumble through the year with the help of two students who were also from Lithuania.
After two years of college, Giga transferred to Jacksonville State University as a starting player on the basketball team.
After two more years, as his senior year season came to a close, Giga’s athletic coaches wanted to celebrate their athlete’s contribution to the team in a heartwarming way.
They knew Giga hadn’t seen his family since leaving Lithuania in 2013. So they arranged a massive surprise, flying Giga’s mother, Edita Gigiene, to America, to watch her son play basketball for the first time on U.S. soil.
Giga was with the team in Evansville, Indiana, preparing for a tournament. His coaches arranged a “meeting” to watch some game footage, and Giga walked into the room completely unaware of the surprise in store.
Giga was under the impression that the cameras in the room were there to record the team’s tournament journey.
But really, everyone just wanted to be able to replay the most important highlight of the tournament — the reunion between a 7-foot-tall basketball star and his mother.
When Giga realized his mother was walking through the door, he was shocked. “No!” he exclaimed in disbelief.
“No, no, no, no, no!” Tears sprung into Giga’s eyes as he embraced his mother in a very overdue hug.
Mother and son wiped tears from their eyes, overcome with joy.
Giga had endured a long five years without his mom.
But now, his American journey had come full circle, thanks to the thoughtful athletic staff who had been like family to Giga throughout his college career.
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