Mindaugas Kacinas, who's preferred nickname is "Minde," is in a similar boat to his good friend and fellow Lithuanian, Laimonas Chatkevicius. Both players sacrificed a summer back home in Lithuania to stay in Columbia and work for the sake of the program. Kacinas spent hours this summer in the weight room and playing in the South Carolina Pro-am. With the work he's put in, Kacinas added increased strength and stamina, but he hopes it brings more consistency with his play.
Kacinas started off his sophomore season with three very solid outings. A career high 14 rebounds in the team's season-opening win vs. Longwood, backing it up with a 13-point, 12-rebound performance against rival Clemson. He wrapped up his November with nine points and nine rebounds in a win vs. FIU. After that Kacinas was rather pedestrian until the month of March. Against No.1 Florida, Kacinas tallied 12 points and eight rebounds. Four days later in the Gamecocks' regular season finale, he gained 13 points and nine boards in a road win at Mississippi State. Kacinas' stellar play traveled to Atlanta when the Gamecocks played in the SEC Tournament. In back-to-back nights and back-to-back wins for South Carolina, Kacinas grabbed 10 rebounds against both Auburn and Arkansas.
Kacinas' willingness and sacrifice to be play out of position when Martin and the staff asks him to may be to blame for his inconsistency. During last season, Kacinas spent time playing small forward, power forward, and center at the request of Martin and the coaching staff. Whatever South Carolina needed, Kacinas was ready and willing to accept it. With increased depth and experience, Kacinas will likely be able to drift between small forward and power forward like he should. Head coach Frank Martin has said that while entering his junior year Mindaugas has "more understanding of what we want" as well as increased "inner toughness and passion that is second to none."
Martin has also commented on the increased strength of Kacinas, and so has Chatkevicius. "He got a lot stronger," Chatkevicius said of Kacinas. "He was always able to push himself." Kacinas has also noticed the benefits of his hard work. When asked if staying in Columbia was more beneficial than going back to Lithuania Kacinas answered, "Most definitely it was. I gained a lot of weight and the coaches can tell that I'm stronger than last year." Kacinas has reportedly added 18 pounds. Jumping from 210 to 228 will only help the junior as he hopes to further increase his level of play. Minde has seen the benefits of his work by the number on the scale but consistency on the court will be the real reward.