Edvinas Rupkus Is Living in the Moment On and Off the Court
Scoring numerous Liberty League awards and points on the court, Skidmore basketball guard Edvinas Rupkus has earned yet another title—this time besting the all-time men’s scoring record. The Skidmore senior boasts a total of 1,693 points, an accomplishment he achieved at a game against Plattsburgh State on November 14th, allowing him to inch four points past the previous title-holder.
Maturing early on in life, Rupkus’ height made him an immediate recruit for the basketball court. By the time he was 5 years old, Rupkus was the tallest person in his class, sealing his fate in the sport, even if initially to his own dismay: “I cried during my first practice because I didn’t know how to play or how the game worked.” But, of course, Rupkus eventually got the hang of it.
“One of the reasons I decided to play basketball and achieve a better education at the same time was because my mom used to play growing up and didn’t have a chance to play basketball while getting an education. My mom had to choose to pursue a professional basketball career or go to school. My grandma made her choose school because that’s important, so her basketball career ended at 18.”
Rupkus, who originally hails from Lithuania, explains how his mom’s history with basketball inspired him in his choice to pursue the sport at Skidmore: “[My mom] was able to relive her basketball career through me, and that is one of the reasons she was able to let me go 4000 miles away from home.”
With genetics and a family history of basketball on his side, it seemed to be Rupkus’ destiny to excel at the sport. Playing in all 28 contests and starting 23 of 28 games his first year, Rupkus has always been a key player for Skidmore, leading the team with 17.2 points per game in the 2015-16 season. As a freshman, Rupkus was nationally ranked (9th), and by his sophomore year, he quickly became the go-to scorer for the Thoroughbreds.
Last season (2017-18), Rupkus was named one of the most efficient scorers in the country, while leading the Liberty League in scoring for the second year straight with 22 points per game. He was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-America Second Team, College Sports Information Directors of America Division III Academic All-America First Team and Liberty League Player of the Year, along with several other distinctive honors.
When asked if he knew he was going to break the record, Rupkus responded, “I knew from an article posted last year that I was 34 points away from the record going into the season. I don’t really count points; there is no time to think about all the records and percentages during the game. I actually didn’t know that I passed the record until I was on the bus coming home.”
Rupkus surpassed the previous title held by Brian Culkin ’01, who scored 1,689 points, but this fact wasn’t on Rupkus’ mind. While playing the game, the guard says he tries to focus on how he can defend his opponent, follow the tactic and execute the game plan. “I’m just in the moment and zone, focusing on the game.”
But while Rupkus may not have initially known about his accomplishment, the attention afterwards was unavoidable, and according to the business and economics double major, was a lot more than he expected: “Everyone was congratulating me, from friends and alumni who read the article to faculty. Everyone had nothing but nice things to say. It was nice and flattering.”
And that type of support extends both on and off the court. Playing basketball has become a bit of a safe-haven for the talented guard, and he says that “the team the coaching staff put together is the most talented team I’ve seen in all my years. We have length, size, experience and skill. We have everything a team would need, including great leadership and coaches.”
Rupkus also accredits much of his success to Joe Burke, head men’s basketball coach, who helped Rupkus become the player he is now. “The coach was tenacious throughout the recruiting process and was my biggest introduction to the school. He never gave up on me and I feel nothing but honor and privilege to be here.”
Looking ahead, Rupkus extends more of that same hopeful attitude. With the men’s team going 4-3, Rupkus is feeling good going into winter break: “We know what we have to work on, and we are going to try to eliminate the mistakes and errors. It took us a while to figure out how to play with each other on the court, but we figured it out. I’ve never been more confident going into Liberty League play.” Rupkus appropriately has his sights set on the long road ahead going into Liberty League Play, and more specifically on winning the Liberty League Championships.
And as for his future plans? According to Rupkus, everything is up in the air right now. Playing professional basketball is an option, but he would have to start in Europe in the 2nd or 3rd league and work his way up. “I know I’m not going to play forever. Whatever is going to happen will happen.”
For now, Rupkus is just enjoying his last moments at Skidmore, being thankful for the immense support he feels from his team, the fans, the Opportunity Program and more. “Life at Skidmore has been nothing short of awesome. The boys on the team are all my brothers, and that is a big reason as to why I chose Skidmore. People always told me coming into college to live in the moment, and I tried, but I blinked and I’m already a senior. I’m thankful for all the fans who come to every game no matter if it’s Liberty league play or a conference game. It could be zero degrees out and people still have to fight for a seat in the stands; it’s awesome.”
Spoken like a true winner.