Hustle and muscle
Career: Riga Iaiks (Latvia-LBL, 1994-95), Homestead (US-HS, 1995-97), UNLV (US-NCAA, 1997-01), Efes Pilsen Istanbul (Turkey-D1, 2001-03), Real Madrid (Spain-ACB, 2003-04), Unics Kazan (Russia-Superleague, 2004-05).
Eurobasket 2001 served as a coming out party for Kaspars Kambala. Since then, the former Runnin’ Rebel has established himself as one of the most dominant post players in Europe. With the absence of Andris Biedrins, his role will be even more important.
His bold head and muscular body have become familiar to fans throughout Europe. The centers and power forwards from the Euroleague and the FIBA Europe League have learned to fear Kaspars Kambala. The Latvian often owns the paint thanks to his power and an array of inside moves. But it has not always been the case as Kambala came in as a relatively unkwown player in Turkey back in 2001. At the time, he had just finished his collegiate career at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and despite very good numbers, he had been in the States for five years and fans and journalists in Europe did not get many chances to see him live. A few of them could only remember his promising showing at the 1998 Under 22 European championship (16.3 points, 7.9 rebounds) where Latvia finished last with a 0-7 record.
2001 proved to be a completely different tune with the Baltic side upsetting its powerful neighbour Lithuania in the elimination round. In Turkey, Kambala was clearly one of the stars of the tournament, averaging 19.0 points on 58.4% shooting and 9.0 rebounds per game, including a 32-point explosion against Croatia. No team seemed to have an answer for Kambala and Latvia’s fantastic shooters kept feeding him the ball in the post. After this amazing performance, one could wonder how 29 NBA franchises could chose not to select him during the 2001 NBA draft. Named to All-Mountain West Conference First Team as a senior and a junior after leading UNLV in scoring both seasons, “Kas”, as he was nicknamed in the States, failed to convince NBA scouts. After a summer league with the Grizzlies and despite having invitations from several teams including the Lakers (but no guaranteed contract), Kambala signed a two year contract with Euroleague powerhouse Efes Pilsen Istanbul. Since then, he has established himself as one of the most dominant post players in Europe. Extremely impressive in Turkey, he confirmed his status with Real Madrid in 2003-04 although the Spanish squad failed to live up to the high expectations surrounding it. This season, the Latvian big guy, like many European marquee players, took his bruising game to Russia. With Unics Kazan, he had and up and down performance (13.9 pts) losing in the quarter-finals of the FIBA Europe League to Khimki Moscow (Kazan was the defending champion). He still made it to the FIBA Europe All Star Game scoring 20 points. Kambala has signed with Fenebahçe Istanbul for the upcoming season.