From Europe to Tulsa, ORU Forward’s Journey Lands Him On College Basketball’s Biggest Stage

Thursday, March 18th 2021, 11:01 pm

Oral Roberts and Ohio State will square off Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

It's been a long journey for ORU Forward Francis Lacis, from Eastern Europe to now the NCAA tournament. For some college basketball players, just playing the game is enough, but for Lacis, making it to college basketball biggest stage was his life's goal.

“The dream has finally come true because when I was younger, I didn't know of anything about the NCAA. I just knew that in America, they play basketball, that felt like something so unreachable. It's cool that I'm here now and I'm experiencing it at the highest level," said Lacis.

The journey began in kindergarten with a little encouragement from his mother Vineta Villistere-Lace.

"I think the European championship was on the TV. I just told my mom I don't really know what it is, I just wanted to play that. So, I have to give major thanks to my mom who found a way for me to start practicing and I haven't looked back since," said Lacis.

His parents might not be in the crowd in Indianapolis for this year’s NCAA tournament, but that won't stop them from cheering for their son from in their country of Latvia.

"They wake up at 3 a.m. and even for the final for the Summit League, everyone was up at 4 a.m. watching the games. You receive text messages from your mom and dad like, 'Hey you played a great game’ whoa, we made it," said Lacis.

One thing is for sure, Lacis hopes his team can fly under the radar of the Ohio State Buckeyes Friday afternoon. He also hopes they don’t pay too much attention to his teammate Max Abmas who currently leads the NCAA in scoring.

"I don't think they have an idea Max is the leading scorer in the NCAA. They might think, 'Oh, but he is just in some random Summit League.' They just don't know we are here for them and we are really preparing. I'm telling everyone, like I wouldn't forgive myself after the season that Max was having, we wouldn't have made it here, so I'm really happy we are here," said Lacis.

Oral Roberts and Ohio State face off Friday at 2 p.m. and you can watch the game on News on 6.