Latvian National Basketball Team ready to surprise all
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