Lat­vian Na­tional Bas­ket­ball Team ready to sur­prise all

The Baltic Times - - SPORTS - Li­nas Jegele­vi­cius

Af­ter the Lat­vian Men’s Na­tional Bas­ket­ball Team took down Lithua­nia in an ex­hi­bi­tion game re­cently, the crowd that filled up the Riga Sport’s Arena up to its brink went crazy. What if the Lat­vians can beat other top teams in the Euro­pean Bas­ket­ball Cham­pi­onship in Is­tan­bul? The Baltic Times spoke about the Lat­vian squad’s prepa­ra­tions with Edgars Sneps, the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Lat­vian Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.

How do you as­sess the na­tional bas­ket­ball team's prepa­ra­tion for the near­ing Euro­pean bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onship? What could have been bet­ter, what is com­mend­able?

The prepa­ra­tion is go­ing ac­cord­ing to the plan de­vel­oped by the head coach Ai­nars Ba­gatskis and his group of as­sis­tants.

Does Latvia have the best bas­ket­ballers on the ros­ter?

Most of them are on it, ex­cept for NBA drafted cen­tre Anzejs Pasec­niks from Spain’s Her­bal­ife Gran Ca­naria and the Lat­vian League play­off MVP Mareks Me­jeris, who de­cided to fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual prepa­ra­tions for the up­com­ing sea­son.

Do you be­lieve Latvia has a more pow­er­ful na­tional bas­ket­ball team than Lithua­nia or Poland?

We have a ta­lented na­tional team with a bal­anced mix of ex­pe­ri­enced and young play­ers, who are able to fight and win against any op­po­nent. Eurobas­ket2017 will show, which of the teams will ful­fil their po­ten­tial to its fullest.

What do you be­lieve are Latvia's strong­est ri­vals in the qual­i­fi­ca­tion group in the cham­pi­onship?

All six teams in the Is­tan­bul group are strong and can qual­ify for the next stage. Cer­tainly, Ser­bians look like the main favourites, but Latvia will not be get­ting any­thing easy in the games against Rus­sia and Turkey, too, nor with Bel­gium or Great Bri­tain.

What is the goal that the fed­er­a­tion has set for the na­tional team in the cham­pi­onship?

Two years ago, at Eurobas­ket2015, the Lat­vian team fin­ished 8th, which is the best achieve­ment of the last 80 years. Of course, the team it­self, sup­port­ers and the Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion want to raise the bar even higher, but the main goal is to go step by step. The first task of Eurobas­ket2017 is to fin­ish in the top four of the group, thereby qual­i­fy­ing for the elim­i­na­tion games. When this is achieved, ev­ery game will be an exam, where we must show­case our best per­for­mance - only then will we be able to eval­u­ate which place we de­serve.

What cham­pi­onship con­tenders do you be­lieve stand the best chances to win the cham­pi­onship?

The favourites are tra­di­tional: Spain, Ser­bia, France, as well as our neigh­bour, Lithua­nia. How­ever, many teams have ex­pe­ri­enced se­ri­ous changes, I mean ros­ter wise. Nowa­days, the qual­ity of the prepa­ra­tion process is of ex­treme im­por­tance. There will be a lot of games with a close point mar­gin, mak­ing the tour­na­ment in­ter­est­ing and dif­fi­cult to pre­dict.

Which na­tional squads par­tic­i­pat­ing in the cham­pi­onship have pro­gressed most lately?

The over­all level is grow­ing and lev­el­ling up, which was con­firmed by the per­for­mances of the Es­to­nian and Ice­landic teams in Eurobas­ket2015. No one, even the main favourites, can be sure of vic­tory be­fore the game.

Which po­si­tions on Latvia's team ros­ter raise your con­cerns? Why?

Our team has a deep ros­ter with ta­lented play­ers in all po­si­tions. So it is up to our op­po­nents to de­cide and try to iden­tify our po­ten­tial flaws.

What awards can the Lat­vian bas­ket­ballers ex­pect hav­ing won the cham­pi­onship? Win­ning the sil­ver? The bronze medals?

The Na­tional Award Sys­tem for Euro­pean cham­pi­ons and medal winners is reg­u­lated by the Cabi­net of Min­is­ters.

When will the team head to the cham­pi­onship?

The team flies off to Is­tan­bul on 30th of Au­gust.

The Lat­vian na­tional squad is ready to take down se­ri­ous chal­lengers

Edgars Sneps is Latvia's Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Lat­vian Bas­ket­ball Fed­er­a­tion

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