Ryan seniors have strong bond, game

Christian Isopi provides Ryan with toughness and now scoring. MELISSA MITMAN / TIMES PHOTO

Gediminas Mokseckas didn’t have a lot of friends when he first got to Somerton.

It didn’t take him long to meet his new best one.

Mokseckas, a senior at Archbishop Ryan High School, came to Philadelphia from Lithuania prior to his junior year. Right after he started going to the school and moved in with a host family, he developed a quick friendship with fellow big man Christian Isopi.

On the court, the chemistry was immediately there. But they became friends even quicker than they did good teammates.

“I don’t know what it was, it was right away, two minutes after I met him, we were friends,” said Isopi, who lives down the block from Mokseckas in Somerton. “We just clicked. I knew I liked him right away. It’s impossible not to. He’s a great teammate and a great person. He makes everyone better, and we have a lot of fun.”

Mokseckas, known as G, came to America alone, but once he met Isopi, he felt right at home.

“We do everything together,” Mokseckas said. “Right after I got here, we became friends. We had some classes together. I love playing with him, but we’re better friends. We are the seniors on the team, so we try to set a good example.”

Gediminas Mokseckas is the second-leading scorer on Ryan this season. MELISSA MITMAN / TIMES PHOTO

If they’re the leaders, they’re doing a fantastic job.

The Raiders are 7-2 in Catholic League play, including a 57-42 win over rival Father Judge on Friday night.

It marked the first game the Raiders played without franchise guard Aaron Lemon-Warren, who suffered a foot injury. Lemon-Warren, who is slated to miss some time, was on crutches at the game, and he had to be impressed with the way his team picked up its play in his absence.

The big guys led the way, with Mokseckas scoring a game-high 24 and Isopi adding 12. Luke Boyd and Jalen Snead each added eight.

Isopi is usually a do-whatever-is-needed kind of player, but with the leading scorer not playing, he showed off his touch.

“I think we played really well together,” said Isopi, who started at center. “We have a lot of guys who can score. I just go out and try to do the other things. I try to do whatever I can to make sure we win.”

So does Mokseckas.

The 6-foot-5 combo guard is the second-leading scorer on the Raiders, and on his first night as the true go-to guy, he showed he can carry the load, and he’s ready for a bigger role for as long as it’s needed. But he’s also glad to watch other guys take the reins and light up the scoreboard.

“Tonight was great because (Isopi) had a great game and when he’s going, I feed off that,” Mokseckas said. “Everyone does. He works so hard in practice. He does everything. When he plays well, everyone plays better. He is a great teammate.”

He’s proven that by being Mokseckas’ first friend at Ryan. But now he’s one of many.

During the game against Judge, there were Lithuania flags hanging over the balcony. He loves the support he gets from his school. He also loves the support he gets from his parents, who are now huge fans of the Raiders and never let the seven-hour time difference stand in the way of finding out how their son made out.

“It doesn’t matter what time it is, whenever we finish, I talk to them,” said Mokseckas, who plays on the Lithuania under-19 national team. “They always want to hear what happened. I keep in touch with them a lot. Usually phone or text. I talk to them every day.”

The immediate future for Mokseckas and Isopi is do whatever it takes to get the Raiders into the best position for the postseason, both the Catholic League playoffs and a potential state tournament run.

They also know the work they put in this year could pay dividends down the line.

Since there are only two seniors on the squad, whatever experience the team gains this year could pay off down the line when Mokseckas and Isopi are no longer there.

It will still mean a lot to them.

“I think this team, because they’re so young, they’re going to be so good next year,” Isopi said. “The juniors and sophomores, it’s exciting to think how good they could be next year. And if they win, I’ll be just as excited. We’re a family. If they win, we all win.”

Next year both seniors plan on playing college ball, but they’re unsure where they’ll end up. Mokseckas plans on majoring in business while Isopi is leaning toward studying accounting.

They both hope basketball is in their future, and they know they’ll always be in each other’s lives.

“We do everything together and we’ll always be friends,” Isopi said. “We go to the mall, practice, we’ve had classes together. We play video games a lot (basketball games). I win, but he’s pretty good, too.

“We’ll always be friends,” Mokseckas said. “We’ll all always be friends. This team is really special.”