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Three young Latvians for the future

October 7th, 2009 · 1 Comment

During the recent Euroleague Qualification Round, BK Ventspils made a first apparition in the major continental competition and played against Benetton Treviso. Despite being eliminated, it was a good occasion for me to check out the talented 1989 generation from Latvia as the two leaders played with Ventspils and did quite a nice job.

Dairis Bertans (1m92 – Guard – 1989 – BK Ventspils)

The Latvian guard, who was one of the main scorers at the U18 European Championship two years ago and finished 5th best scorer at the U20 in Rhodes 2009, joined BK Ventspils this summer coming from ASK Riga. He is playing mainly the SG position, but can also help out on the wing even if he is a bit short to do so. Bertans excels particularly when driving to the hoop. He has a very nice first step, especially when coming of his right hand. Out of his penetration plays, he tries to go to rim when he sees the open lane and can score there despite being not highly physical. His nice leaping ability helps him to stay in the air quite some time when he needs to adjust his shot.

On his drives, he recognizes the defensive help nicely as he either goes for the dish to the open team mate or changing his drive direction to create himself the necessary space to take a shot over the bigger defender. He can score here very difficult shots as he has a correct shot even in the fade-away jumpers out of full speed. When being defended by a slower player than himself, he can play the one-on-one. He has a nice crossover dribble out of which he can nail the jump shot up to the three point line.

His long range shot is however not that effective, he is a 30% three point shooter at the moment. His free throw shooting is lacking of consistency too as his percentages vary a lot over the different seasons and tournaments. Defensively, Bertans shows nice lateral speed and can steal the ball very effectively in the passing lanes. His lack of physical strength may hurt him in the future but he should be able to develop nicely over the next years and will be one of the prospects to follow in this year’s edition of the Baltic League.

Janis Strelnieks (1m91 – Guard – 1989 – BK Ventspils)

The second player of the dynamic Latvian backcourt is PG Janis Strelnieks. He plays for Ventspils for several years now and had his breakout season last year with the professional team. He led Latvia to a 10th place at the recent U20 European Championship and earned a Honorable Mention by Nico van den Bogaerd on draftexpress.com.

Strelnieks is running the point with great speed and never goes out of gas. He likes to play Pick and Roll situations as he recognizes the open passes nicely, even under double-team pressure. He is not afraid to drive strong to the basket and finishes with either hand, preferring however his stronger right hand to start the drives. He can hit the jump shot out of the dribble, even being at full speed. During certain game situations, when playing as an off-guard, he can also go for catch and shoot situations, also coming of the screen to get open.

Defensively, Strelnieks can hold his own against smaller Point Guards but he has trouble when he needs to play a physical player. He gets posted up and has not that much he can do against these situations despite having a good height for a PG. Another season in the Baltic League with major minutes will help him of course and I would not be surprised to see him leave for a major team next season.

Lauris Blaus joined BK Ventspils this summer and being a year younger (born in 1990) than the two guards sees only limited minutes right now. Blaus is a strong but a bit short PF/C with only 2m04 but he showed some nice tools for the future. He has quite a large body and with the right work, he should be able to become physically very strong over the next years. In the post, he can attack his defender with either his back to the basket or by facing him. A first season on the highest Baltic League level can show what he is able to do in the future.

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Kendra Roberts // Oct 7, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    I’m rooting for you Janis Strelnieks 😉

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