Kraulins Keeping Calm

23 August 2003

Armands Kraulins, Latvia’s veteran coach, oozes calm after friendly defeats.

His team’s 86-70 setback to hosts Turkey in the Efes Pilsen World Cup II was a disappointment, but insignificant in the greater scheme of things.

What matters in such contests with the European Championships two weeks away is that Kraulins must be able to assess his players - all of them.

Which ones are good enough to make his squad, and which ones have a chance of contributing next month in Sweden.

Against the Turks, Kraulins got extended looks at veteran Raimonds Miglenieks, Troy Ostler and Kaspars Kambala.

Miglenieks has been injured this year and this was his first game action for Latvia, while American-born Ostler has joined the squad late from the United States and Real Madrid’s Kambala, who was with the team in Riga, is still playing catch-up after a delayed arrival.

"To win against such strong opponents, we would have let eight or nine of our best players play, but we let everybody play,” he said after Thursday’s defeat.

Kambala found the going tough against Detroit Piston big man Mehmet Okur, but statistically the trio of Latvians did well.

Kambala finished with 22 points and eight rebounds, Ostler had 10 points and 11 boards and Miglenieks dished out six assists.

That wasn’t good enough for the coach, however.

"I had the intention of giving more playing time to Kambala, Miglenieks and Ostler," Kraulins confirmed. “What are the conclusions? Not the best. Kambala was too passive defensively in the first period. Miglenieks was good with passing and moves, and Ostler deserves a satisfactory mark for the debut."

The message beefing up the defence clearly didn’t get through to the players because in their next game against Russia on Friday, a contest they had to win to reach the semi-finals of the tournament, their opponents humiliated them 112-87.

Russia seized a 30-15 lead in the first quarter and then poured in 36 points in the second.
Roberts Stelmahers led Latvia with 19 points while Kambala scored 16 and Kristaps Valters had 17.

Sergey Monia led a balanced Russian scoring attack with 20 points.

That outcome meant that the Baltic side will face New Zealand to contest fifth place.

The Kiwis made it to the semi-finals of the World Championships last year but have been thrashed by Serbia & Montenegro and Italy in Turkey.

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