Close menu Resources for... William & Mary
W&M menu close William & Mary

Alumnus Abroad

Q&A with Laimis Kisielius ‘08

(Photo courtesy of W&M Athletics)
"Laimis Kisielius went above and beyond in Vilnius last summer [during the Project Go and W&M study abroad programs]. He was like an unofficial country director. Sasha [Prokhorov] and I had our roles, but Laimis was there to guide us in the right direction whenever we needed to know about hotels, emergency services, local events, restaurant recommendations, tours that we should go on or museums we should visit. He also taught us a lot about the local culture and language nuances. He was constantly explaining Lithuanian history, why the war in Ukraine mattered so much to Lithuanians and to the region in general.

"He also talked to the students about Lithuania's biggest and most popular sport: basketball."

—Nick Vasquez, Associate Director, International Travel & Security
Where were you born? What do you consider your hometown?

I was born in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. Despite subsequent adventures, including pursuing collegeSasha Prokhorov and Laimis Kisielius in Vilnius (Photo by Nick Vasquez) in America and a professional basketball career that took me to various cities and countries, I eventually found my way back home to Vilnius, making it a central and enduring part of my journey.

Why did you choose to attend William & Mary?

Choosing William & Mary was a straightforward decision for me. When I came to the United States, I had a clear goal of pursuing both basketball and a quality education, which wasn't easily achievable in Europe at the time. In Europe, you were typically boxed into either being a full-time professional athlete with intense training or a dedicated student. It was like choosing between peanut butter and jelly separately, but I wanted the PB&J. The American system provided a unique opportunity to strike that balance, and William & Mary emerged as the ideal choice for me.

Starting my journey at the university coincided with joining the first-year recruiting class under basketball coach Tony Shaver. Coach Shaver was not only an exceptional mentor but also a fantastic person. I still keep in touch with him and think of him as one of the best coaches I've ever had. He assured me that I would make an immediate impact on the court (probably gave a similar message to other recruits too!). So, the idea of getting a top-notch education while playing basketball right from the start made choosing William & Mary an easy and exciting decision for me.

What was your major? Did it prove useful in your future career(s)?

My major was Finance, and it has proven immensely useful in my subsequent career I've always had aknack for numbers over writing, and my studies equipped me with valuable knowledge in areas such as investing, accounting, and corporate finance. This background has been instrumental, from managing my own investments to embarking on a career as an investment advisor, assisting others in their financial endeavors. However, when it comes to playing basketball on the court, my Finance degree didn't contribute much—except perhaps for some friendly banter!

Did you have a favorite course or professor while you were at W&M?

When it comes to picking a favorite course or professor at W&M, I'll be straight up—I tended to favor classes that didn't demand extensive writing assignments. English wasn't my first language (and still isn't), so I found myself navigating through quite a few late-night writing sessions to meet the course requirements.

It has to be difficult to maintain your studies while being an athlete. Was it a challenge or did you find it wasn’t a problem for you?

Balancing studies with athletics can be a challenge, but the system for student-athletes in the U.S. is like a well-oiled machine. For me, attending classes and taking notes comprised the bulk of the academic workload. The main challenge arose during away games when we had to leave town for a day or two. However, thanks to the online resources available to us, staying on top of studies during such periods became manageable. So, in short, maintaining studies wasn't particularly difficult for me.

I read an article about your job teaching Lithuanian for Jack Martin’s linguistics class. Did you study linguistics at William & Mary?

Technically, it wasn't a job; the class needed to study the language with me as their sole source. For them I was like the last person on Earth who could speak Lithuanian, and they had to dive into the language in meticulous detail. For the final paper—Jack can correct me on this—they were tasked with having an 80-page write-up about the language itself. You can probably guess that I didn't study linguistics, as I might still be writing that paper to this day if I had!Kisielius taking his shot (Photo courtesy of W&M Athletics)

Do you have a favorite memory or memories of your time at W&M?

Certainly, I have numerous cherished memories from my time at W&M, with a significant portion tied to the world of basketball, from trying to prove everyone I was good enough my freshman year (I was) to leading the team to the championship game my senior year (wasn’t lucky enough to win). However, beyond the victories and defeats on the court, the most treasured memories revolve around the incredible people I had the privilege of connecting with during those years—individuals I still keep in contact with today. The bonds formed off the court are the highlights that make my W&M experience truly unforgettable. 

What are you currently doing professionally?

At the ripe age of 37, I wrapped up my professional basketball career in the spring of 2022. Fortunately, my wife and I had made strategic real estate investments during my playing days, providing a foundation for our ongoing business ventures post-retirement. Currently, I wear multiple hats—I serve as the president of the Basketball Players Association in Lithuania and hold a license as an Investment Advisor. However, my most significant role at the moment is embracing the full-time responsibilities of being a dad to our 3-month-old son, Lukas.

How do you think your experience at W&M has affected your life and decisions you have made?

This is a question that doesn't come my way often. The straightforward response is that I owe a lot to my time at W&M for shaping where I am today. While I might have graduated from another institution, the unique basketball opportunity I received at W&M played a pivotal role. A successful freshman year allowed me to fulfill one of my childhood dreams: playing for the junior national team. So, in many ways, my experience at W&M has been a defining factor in the trajectory of my life and the decisions I've made.

Do you have any advice for current students?

One piece of advice that stuck with me was shared during and alumni weekend, when a former player emphasized: “Enjoy college, these are the best years of your lives”. Now, whether he was happily married or just had a questionable job satisfaction, I can’t say, but the message stuck with me as a reminder to navigate through life with minimal stress and make the most of the college experience.

Kisielius at a press conference at W&M (Photo courtesy of W&M Athletics)Is there any advice you wish you had received?

Yes, buy a few bitcoins in 2012 and don’t sell for 10 years. Jokes aside, I would emphasize the importance of early investments. The power of compounding interest is like the eighth wonder of the world. Establishing financial independence early on is a significant stride towards a stress-free life. It's advice I wish I had received earlier in my journey.

Do you think international experience as a student is helpful in future life and career?

Absolutely, international experience is incredibly beneficial. Being immersed in different cultures provides invaluable insights into communication styles and differing perspectives on life's priorities. Witnessing and living among these settings is a great learning experience, and in my opinion a game-changer for personal growth.