New Hampton School
Olympian Darius Songaila '98 Found a Path to Wake Forest, NBA at NHS
New Hampton School graduate Darius Songaila ’98 is competing for Lithuania in the 2012 Men’s Basketball competition at the London Games. Three years ago the communications office caught up with the former Husky and Wake Forest star, then entrenched in what was a nine-year NBA career. These days Songaila is playing professionally in Europe. He played in Turkey last year and will move to the Spanish League for the 2012-13 season. Songaila scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 15 minutes of play in Lithuania’s opening-game loss to Argentina on Sunday. Here is the complete story from 2009 and some insight from Songaila on how NHS shaped his academic and athletic success in college.
College basketball standout, team leader, NBA basketball player-Darius Songaila (sun-GUY-la) is all of this and more. His many proud moments in sports include accepting a bronze medal as part of the 2000 Lithuanian Olympic team. Ten years ago though, he was a postgraduate student at NHS who had come from halfway around the world "to a tiny, little town in the middle of nowhere" to sharpen his skills.
"It was a good idea to come to the United States to learn the language and pick up the social life, but I had no idea what kind of a place I was coming to," said Songaila about his early impressions of New Hampton.His Lithuanian hometown of Marijampolé was a county seat of some 50,000 inhabitants and his previous USA visits as an international student-athlete had included cities like Hartford, CT, and Chicago, where he played in preseason exhibition games. NHS was a quieter, more focused experience.
"For me, NHS was a jumpstart into life in the USA. It was a place, filled with great people, where I didn't have to plunge right into the chaos of a big city and college."
NHS's diverse student body introduced him to different types of Americans.
"Some people say that down south, they are all friendly and up north, they are colder, but NHS wasn't like that because it's a mix of people from all over the USA. It was great a experience," said Songaila. "The classes were small, and I developed very personal relationships. Everyone at the school did more than just coach; they were teachers, counselors, or they did some other activity. My coaches Jamie Arsenault and Mark Tilton taught me economics and history."
He became part of the community, "running up and down hills" for cross country in the fall, playing basketball, and participating in weekend community service. "We cleaned the fire truck, cleaned up a local park, things like that."
Basketball was the main focus, of course, and his NHS PG year positioned him well for bigtime college play. At Wake Forest Darius finished ranked eighth in team history in rebounds, ninth in points, and second in games played. As a senior, he led in scoring, rebounding, and free throw percentage, and was selected Honorable Mention All-America by the Associated Press.
Songaila noted, "I still have some of the friendships I made at New Hampton, while some of the guys I went to college with for four years I don't know as well."
He maintains ties with Husky teammates Brent Klassen '98, Greg Friel '98, and Graham Bunn '98, among others, who sometimes come to watch and cheer on Songaila's on-going basketball career. Songaila also remains close to his former coach, Director of Athletics Jamie Arsenault.
After college Darius played in Europe for a year before embarking in 2006 on an NBA career that has included play for the Sacramento Kings, the Chicago Bulls, and now the Washington Wizards, for whom he takes the court as a 6' 9", 250 pound forward. New Hampton School was an important stop on the way to Songaila's exciting life as a pro athlete.
He commented, "It depends what you are looking for. It was perfect for me. I needed to learn the language, and to learn how things work. At NHS I developed relationships and learned to rely on myself and about being part of team; something bigger than 'just yourself.' For me it worked out great."
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New Hampton School
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New Hampton, NH 03256