Latvia ready to seize their opportunity in FIBA EuroBasket 2017
Looking to reach new heights in the country's modern-day basketball history at FIBA EuroBasket 2017, the high-aiming Latvia tipped off their preparations for their big breakout party.
In charge of arguably the most talented group of players since taking charge of the program in 2010, Bagatskis was full of hope for the summer ahead, with Kristaps Porzingis and Davis Bertans headlining the 18-player training squad.
Latvia's training camp squad ahead of FIBA EuroBasket 2017
Arturs Ausejs, Dairis Bertans, Davis Bertans, Janis Berzins, Janis Blums
Klavs Cavars, Andrejs Grazulis, Ilja Gromovs, Kristaps Janicenoks, Davis Lejasmeiers
Martins Meiers, Zanis Peiners, Kristaps Porzingis, Ojars Silins, Aigars Skele
Rolands Smits, Janis Strelnieks, Janis Timma.
Kaspars Berzins, Rolands Freimanis, Ingus Jakovics and Anzejs Pasecniks were the last omissions from the national team candidate list just before training camp commenced in Riga earlier in the week.
"Kaspars Berzins barely played last season, while Rolands Freimanis had good statistics in Turkey but is most effective with a bigger role and more playing time, which I will not be able to provide in the national team. Meanwhile, Ingus Jakovics expressed his desire to dedicate the summer to individual training and Anzejs Pasecniks opted not to play for the national team this time," explained the coach, regarding his decision.
Still awaiting the arrival of all players to training camp, Bagatskis and his coaching staff have been hard at work with the available candidates in the port of Ventspils the last couple of days, focusing primarily on conditioning.
"Since I started working with the national team in 2010, we have traditionally had six weeks of training camp, during which we not only trained but also bonded as a team. This year, due to various circumstances, we will have a shorter time but I have no doubts about the professionalism of the players or the fact that everyone will be well prepared," he said.
Latvia will play their first test games on July 28 and 29 against Finland, before participating in a friendly tournament in Klaipeda with Georgia, Lithuania and Poland. After that, the preparations will return to Riga, where the national team will play four games against Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
"Every single year, we have taken incremental steps forward, improving both the quality of our game and our standing in European basketball in general. The eighth place in FIBA EuroBasket 2015 was the repeat of our best achievement since 1992 but is not the limit of our team's potential. There is no point in talking about the future in professional sports, we are focusing on the present and FIBA EuroBasket 2017 is our opportunity," said Bagatskis, looking ahead.
"The core of the team has evolved over the eight years that I have been involved with the national team, being complemented by the influx of young players. This time, we also have some newcomers who we expect to make big solid contributions."
Latvia will play in the Istanbul-based Group D of the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 with Belgium, Great Britain, Russia, Serbia and tournament hosts Turkey.