Memorable Mocs is a summer GoMocs.com series on Chattanooga men's basketball student-athletes that left an indelible mark on the program. The first installment is on forward Mindaugas Katelynas from Alytus, Lithuania.
Mindaugas electrified crowds in the McKenzie Arena for his two seasons in Chattanooga. He also took that show on the road at the 2005 Final Four in St. Louis, Mo., where he captured the NCAA Slam Dunk championship.
After his career with the Mocs ended, Katelynas made a name for himself in Europe playing in the top Italian professional league for a few years before playing in Spain in 2009-10. There is speculation ranging from Italy to Spain to his native Lithuania as to where he will play this upcoming season.
While he is quite an athlete, Katelynas was best known at UTC for his work ethic heading into the 2004-05 season.
"Mindaugas worked as hard on and off the court as anyone I have been associated with," said John Shulman whose first year as head coach of the Mocs was 2004-05. "If you had 15 players with his selfless dedication, you'd have a special, championship ballclub.
"It doesn't hurt to have tremendous ability either," smiled Shulman.
On the court, Katelynas reminded some scouts of Andrei Kirilenko of the Utah Jazz with his wiry frame and athleticism. With the ability to play the three, Mindaugas played in the post that season and led the team in scoring (11.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg).
More importantly, Katelynas led the Mocs to their ninth NCAA Tournament berth as Chattanooga won its 15th SoCon regular season title (fifth division) and ninth tourney crown.
Katelynas was relentless in his pursuit of the Mocs' ninth tournament title. He helped key a second half comeback from a 32-26 halftime deficit in the 57-51 semifinals win over Appalachian State. Mindaugas grabbed 15 (11 offensive) of his school record 21 rebounds in that pivotal second half including four in the last two minutes of the game while scoring the final five points.
That win propelled the Mocs into the championship game where they toppled UNC Greensboro 66-62 to claim the NCAA Tournament bid. Katelynas won tourney Most Outstanding Player honors and his name was cemented forever in the hearts of Mocs fans everywhere.
"This is a program defined by championships," added Shulman. "Our fans love their former players, but there is a special place for those who win championships. Just mention the name Mindaugas and you see faces light up.""I remember at the post-game press conference after the championship," added Shulman. "Mindaugas said, 'I am the happiest man in the world right now.' He meant it. He loved Chattanooga and Chattanooga loves him."