Tare: TTT Riga On Right Track

08.01.2008

TTT Riga dominated European basketball for two decades, winning 18 European Cup for Women's Champion Clubs titles (as Daugawa Riga) between 1960 and 1982, including 12 straight from 1964 to 1975.

The Latvian club, led by Uljana Semjonova, also clinched 21 Soviet titles between 1960 and 1984. But TTT Riga have done little internationally since the 1980s, reaching the 2002 Ronchetti Cup and then appearing in the 2007 EuroCup Women, where the team went 0-6.

But coach Ainars Cukste has turned TTT Riga into a powerhouse in Latvia, where they have captured two of the past three domestic LSBL crowns and reached the finals in 2006. And this season, Cukste has TTT back in the EuroLeague Women.

We've done a great job. Nobody expected us to play such good games.

The Latvians are 3-4 and in a tie for third place in Group A - ahead of ESB Lille Metropole and Phard Napoli.

And one of the keys to that success has been Latvian national team forward Ieva Tare. The 33-year-old averaged 6.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in helping Latvia surprisingly reach the semi-finals of the 2007 EuroBasket Women in Italy and book a spot in the World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

David Hein spoke to Tare on behalf of FIBA Europe.

FIBA Europe: Ieva, TTT Riga are tied for third in Group A of the EuroLeague Women and now take on Fenerbahce. What does the team need to do to improve to 4-4?

Tare: This will be a very tough game, but an important one, too. First off, we have to play really hard defense. We can play offense, but we have to concentrate on playing defense if we want to win.

FIBA Europe: During the holiday break, the club went out and signed 34-year-old veteran Portuguese guard Ticha Penicheiro, who helped Spartak Moscow Region win the EuroLeague and the Russian Superleague last season. What do you expect from her?

Tare: She'll play really hard defense. I hope she can help us win these next few games. She's a good outside player, so that will help us a lot.

Ticha Penicheiro (Spartak Moscow Region)
Ticha Penicheiro's experience can help TTT Riga a lot, believes Tare


FIBA Europe: Fenerbahce are 5-2 and all but guaranteed a spot in the Eighth-final Play-offs. And Riga's next two games are at MKB Euroleasing Sopron (3-4) and Phard Napoli (1-6).

Tare: We're just taking it step-by-step. We're a new team in the EuroLeague. We have to concentrate on every game. It's a lot easier to win at home than on the road. You see that with most of the teams in the group - besides CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahce - we're all winning at home but losing on the road.

FIBA Europe: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. TTT Riga are back in the EuroLeague after a long time away. But the club had so much success in the past. How would you rate the club's success thus far?

Tare: We've done a great job. Nobody expected us to play such good games, especially since we don't have any Latvian players with EuroLeague experience. There is some experience with the Americans, but not with the Latvians. We're all very happy with the three wins. And it would be great to reach the next round. But I think we have a good chance.

FIBA Europe: Looking ahead to this summer, Latvia have a chance to reach the Olympics. What would that mean to you if your national team was successful?

Tare: I don't know. That is so big. It would be very, very, very great, especially since we're such a small country.



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