EUROBASKET 2015 2nd QR
|Ainars Bagatskis: "We will treat each opponent seriously and with respect, but the most important is for us to be well prepared."|
Latvia head coach Ainars Bagatskis has welcomed back plenty of familiar faces at his team's first practice session of their training camp for the upcoming EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualification Round.
Nine of the 12 players who suited up for Latvia at last September's EuroBasket in Slovenia have reported for international duty again this summer and will be at the disposal of Bagatskis for the qualifying campaign, which tips off on 10 August.
Were it not for factors beyond his or the players' control, Bagatskis would have welcomed back all 12 of them with open arms.
Winger Rihards Kuksiks, small forward Janis Berzins and veteran shooting guard Armands Skele are the only three members of the Latvian EuroBasket 2013 squad that will not see international action this summer.
The first two are still undergoing rehabilitation after sustaining injuries earlier in the year, while Skele's already battered body was battling physical problems during the last stretch of the club season and he needs to rest.
"In the position of Armands Skele we have some young promising players, including his (22-year-old) brother Aigars, so we will not even miss the Skele family name," Bagatskis said jokingly on the inaugural day of training camp.
Another trio of familiar faces in Janis Timma, Zanis Peiners and Ronalds Zakis, who have previously represented their country but did not make the EuroBasket 2013 squad, are returning in the Latvian mix this summer.
The one regret that Bagatskis has is that he could include in his squad for the qualifiers more young players, especially the stars of the Latvian team that reached the final of the U20 European Championship last summer.
"Kaspars Vecvagars is still recovering from his serious injury (which ruled him out of the biggest part of his first senior season with Zalgiris Kaunas)," the Latvian coach explained.
"Ojars Silins and Kristaps Porzingis (who competed with the U18 team last summer) have had very demanding seasons at the highest level in Italy and Spain and will undergo specific training programs in the summer in order to prevent injury and improve their individual skills.
"Davis Bertans meanwhile will travel to the USA to train individually."
The youngest of the Bertans brothers had debuted with the senior national team at EuroBasket 2011, at the age of 19, but missed out on last September's EuroBasket due to a remarkably unfortunate incident as the ACL in his right knee was torn in Partizan Belgrade's last game of the 2013 season.
"All these players have regularly played for the youth national teams in the past and have confirmed that they will gladly play for the senior team in the future," Bagatskis clarified to dispense any long-term worries.
"I respect the players' choices," the Latvian coach stated.
"Participation in national teams is voluntary and our players do not receive any remuneration for it.
"I just want to remind that our national teams are organised, as far as possible, in a way that takes into account the individual needs of the players.
"I hope that the young players will achieve their objectives this summer, be successful with their clubs in the new season and work even harder to be candidates for the national team."
|Janis Timma will join the national team after his NBA Summer League campaign|
Bagatskis himself has had a highly successful season at the helm of Ukrainian champions Budivelnyk Kiyv and has recently agreed to terms with the surprise package of the VTB United League, Nizhniy Novgorod, to replace Zoran Lukic and steer the Russian club into their maiden Euroleague campaign in the new season.
Right now, however, the Latvian tactician is fully focused on steering his nation into yet another EuroBasket participation from 2nd Qualification Round Group F, which also includes Slovakia, Romania and Sweden.
"Our team was among the top seeds in the draw, so the Swedish, Romanian and Slovak teams think of us as the favourites in this group," Bagatskis said.
"However, this is a status that will have to be certified on the court.
"We will treat each opponent seriously and with respect, but the most important is for us to be well prepared.
"We will spend the first two weeks of preparations training in Riga and three players, Dairis Bertans, Janis Timma and Kaspars Berzins will play in the NBA Summer League and join the team later," Bagatskis said.
"The final deadline is the end of July and we are not worried about their fitness level since they will not be in America on holiday, but it's another question how fast they will integrate into the team."
Latvia's opening game in the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualification Round is away at Sweden, on 10 August.
The Latvian squad includes Janis Strelnieks, Janis Blums, Dairis Bertans, Zanis Peiners, Aigars Skele, Ingus Jakovics, Kristaps Janicenoks, Haralds Karlis, Janis Timma, Mareks Mejeris, Rolands Freimanis, Kaspars Berzins, Andrejs Grazulis, Andrejs Selakovs, Martiņs Meiers, Ronalds Zakis and Iļja Gromovs.