In the last few years we have become used to seeing a big man dominate the young Latvian teams. First came Kasparas Kambala, then Raitis Grafs and most recently Andris Biedrins from the Latvian cadets. This year's U18 team was supposed to be led by the same Biedrins in this championship, but the talented center became a lottery pick in the last NBA draft and signed with Golden State Warriors. Latvia was left without its #1 star and in fact without a dominating power in the paint as it has become accustomed in the recent young national teams.
Once Biedrins quit, the spotlight moved directly to the back court and point-guard Edgars Jeromanovs had to step up. Jeromanovs spent one season in the USA before coming back to Latvia and joining the junior team of Ventsplis, the Latvian champion, and deciding that basketball is what his mind is set upon.
In the U18 championship he has excelled from the first game in which he led his team to a big upset on Russia’s account with 22 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds. Jeromanovs is one of the best passers in the games in Zaragoza, but he’s doing just about everything on court. He is playing with his heart and carrying an underdog team that never gives up. He’s a very promising prospect that will make his mark in the European scene in the years to come.
What can you tell us about your basketball background?
“I first started to practice when I was 5 years old. I spent one year in high school in USA 2 years ago, not for basketball but as an exchange student. I didn’t stay there to play basketball because the season is very short and the practices are different. I like to play for 9 months, so I came back home. Then I went to the Junior Olympics games in Russia, to play with the National Team. We had a different coach there and he invited me to Ventsplis, and I understood that basketball is what I’m going to do with my life. So after I came back from the USA I moved from Riga to Ventsplis and lived there by myself, but it wasn’t that bad. I got used to getting along on my own”.
Jeromanovs goes up strong against Serbia & Montenegro
“On defense I like to steal the ball, and on offense I like to give a good assist. Of course points are important, because you win games with points, but for me passing an assist is something I really like. If there’s a situation and the guy has more space then I like to try a special pass, but if not, I go for the simple one to get the easy points”.
Many Latvian players go to play college in the states, is that where you plan to go after playing here?
“I don’t know yet. I just graduated from high school so I need to think about it. It’s something I’m considering, but I didn’t make up my mind. Right now I play for the junior team of Ventsplis in Latvia. The average age there is 19-20 and I get playing time, but still not with the pro team”
You came here without your biggest star, how did that influence your plans?
“We knew we’ll play without Biedrins when we first started practice. We had some hope that he would be here, but very soon it came clear he wouldn’t, and we made plans to play more for the guards. We had similar plans even if he was here, but we tried to create more new stuff so the guards could score more”.
On the first day you beat Russia, is it a special win for you, or just like any other game?
“We want to win every game but every time we play against Russia or Lithuania it’s something special. Today we lost but we came here in the first place with low expectations. We didn’t have big hopes and every game for us is a big excitement.
I didn’t expect we’ll play so well as a team. I give all the credit to the coach. He’s doing a great job. He said we need to go out and play hard and the game will be even no matter who’s playing against us, and he made us believe it. And this is what’s happening. The other reason is that opponents don’t expect big things from us. That’s why we got to win the first game. Teams were sure they will have an easy game against us and we surprised them”.
What’s your impression about the competition so far?
“The level of games here is very high and that makes me play at my best, and I’m sure it’s going to pay off later on”.