To say that Donatas Motiejunas had a tough journey just to get to Tel Aviv in order to join his Lithuania team-mates for Eurobasket isn’t even scratching the surface.
Motiejunas witnessed the birth of his son in Houston, but got stuck in the city as Hurricane Harvey made landfall and rocked Texas to its core.
“He’s healthy. He’s long, so he’s probably going to be tall. We’re all just happy,” Motiejunas told fiba.basketball after Lithuania’s first game in Tel Aviv, a 79-77 loss to Georgia in Group B. “Me and my teammates all have a group chat and everyone was super hyped about it. I sent some pictures. Everyone was happy and wished me the best.”
Just a couple of days ago, though, Tel Aviv must have seemed like half a world away for Motiejunas. The 26-year-old Lithuanian center was granted clearance from his coach Dainius Adomaitis to head to the United States following the team’s exhibition game against Spain on August 25 to be on hand for his child’s birth in Houston.
“Coach has two daughters so he completely understood and let me go,” Motiejunas said. “He understands that this is once or twice in a lifetime and I really appreciate it. He really gave me an opportunity to go and see my son.”
August 25, however, was also the day that Hurricane Harvey made landfall initially in Corpus Christi, Texas, located about 217 miles from Houston in southern Texas along the Gulf of Mexico. Harvey rocked Houston shortly thereafter and wreaked havoc on the fourth largest city in the United States, which also has been Motiejunas’ residence for the past four years, as he played for the Houston Rockets from 2012 to 2016.
The images of devastating flooding are still being broadcast around the world. But those images pale in comparison to the true magnitude of the catastrophe.
“The pictures are not even close to what’s going on. You can see some pictures of some places being flooded but when you’re actually there and you see trucks under water and stuff like that it’s shocking,” Motiejunas says. “There are stoplights and water reaches to the top of them – like four or five meters (13 to 16 feet) of water, some places even more. It’s shocking and it’s really affecting a lot of people. It’s a real tragedy what happened there.”