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FIBA U19 World Championship Preview: Latvia

June 27th, 2011 · No Comments

Today we will check the team of the hosts of the U19 World Championship in Latvia. Andrejs Silins will give us his inside view on the team that features new draftee Davis Bertans but also his own brother Ojars.

This is a special year for Latvian basketball – European Championships for ladies and gentlemen, for youngsters, second ever Latvian drafted in the NBA and of course U19 World Championships. And not only participating for the only second time ever, but also hosting tournament.

Latvian U19 head coach Ziedonis Jansons has the privilege to work with a group of super talented guys and at the same time they have a privilege to work with such coach as Jansons is. He’s the most positively thinking person in Latvian basketball and a great psychologist. In his career mostly worked with youth teams, but every team that he’s been with has the greatest chemistry in a world. „They [Players] are my friends, they really are. They make me as a coach, their success rises my prestige. Of course, on the court they are players and I am coach – they have to accept my references. Outside basketball we can talk and discuss about everything,” Jansons describes his philosophy of making team.

With a huge help from Dainis Bertans, father of brightest Latvian young player and NBA draftee Davis Bertans, scouting gurus Gunars Gailitis and Martins Zibarts (also the smartest basketball specialist in Latvia) and former heptathlete and Olympian (Sidney, 2000) Liga Klavina who is responsible for physical condition Ziedonis Jansons has not only the great bunch of players, but also a competitive coaching staff.

If you ask about Latvian U19 team first name that comes into your mind is Davis Bertans. Second Latvian ever drafted and a guy who will for sure some day claim on the highest stage of basketball – NBA. Everybody knows him, but not everyone knows other pieces in Latvian success. Janis Timma is the guy who has at least Euroleague potential, extreme physicality and I believe that the combination Timma-Bertans is the most dangerous tandem of European basketball at this age group. Let’s see what they can manage in even more serious level.

Plus there comes Kaspars Vecvagars, former Latvian National Team’s forward Arnis Vecvagars’ son, who spent last season in Zalgiris Kaunas system and will be a starting PG for Latvia for 100%. Edmunds Dukulis played for Italian vice champs Cantu and even with a lack of height in his position shows great center skills and is an excellent rebounder. While Andris Misters has an injury which will stop him from playing ball until November, the captain’s responsibilities will go to one of the team’s great shooters Arturs Bremers. Both spent last season in USA, preparing for their NCAA careers.

There can also be some ‘93 power in the ‘92 team with the above mentioned Point Guard Kaspars Vecvagars, Small Forward Ojars “OJ” Silins (Reggio Emilia, Italy) and center Andrejs Grazulis (Ventspils, Latvia) showing nice progress during last season.

Last summer, the team had only two (!) exhibition games but it didn’t stop them from beating France, Spain, Croatia, Serbia and taking bronze in the U18 European Championship. This year there are no problems with games before Championships, but the problem is – all the best players came together only 2 weeks before the first game. Players are still optimistic and think it won’t bother them from showing the best performance. With a coach like Jansons I believe that too.

My name is Andrejs Silins, and if you read or just understand Latvian you can read my pieces and watch my interviews in Also doing a bit of coaching for youngsters I believe I understand this game pretty well, at the same time – you can always learn something new. And I’m still a young dude, learning the beautiful game of basketball. See you in Championships this summer and love basketball!

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