Estonia: Sokk Pleads For More Time

30 December 2005

Estonia are going to hit some bumps in the road as they try to match the excellent standard of basketball being played by Baltic neighbours Lithuania, the EuroBasket 2003 champions.

Even Latvia are a better team these days.

Those two sides are regulars in the EuroBasket final tournaments, while Estonia have been a team which fights just to maintain its Division A status.

National team coach Tiit Sokk was given an indication this week of just how far Estonia will have to go over the next couple of years if they are to become a force.

His national team took on Latvian club Bumerangs in a practice game and lost 80-74.

He told the Eesti Päevaleht newspaper: "There are nine new players in the team this year.

"I spoke to the boys before the match and I said that each and every one of them must show their best sides, must overcome the opponents with the help of their individual skills. In no way do we build up a team with two days of training.

"I expected more sharpness, more fast-breaks.

"The team is lacking a sharp leader who can turn any situation for our good. None of the players in the team are really leaders in their home clubs. This is where they had a chance to show themselves, and there are not many chances like that in life. But no one really impressed me."

Sokk's son, playmaker Tanel Sokk, was also upset after the game.

"We just weren't ready for the game and that is all there really is to say," he said.

"We knew that it wasn't going to be an easy game but we still let them take the lead in the beginning."

The Estonia players may have underestimated their opponents, who have not been very strong in the Baltic League this year. Gulbene Bumerangs are second bottom in that competition.

Coach Sokk told Eesti Päevaleht: "But in reality, it is a very good young team and they are getting better all the time, so I am convinced that they will take a higher position by the time the season is over."

Working with a national team is a process.

At least Sokk is able to gather players now and begin looking to the future. He needs as many practices and friendlies as possible to build a team.

"In the summer, I had to wait until the very last game of the additional play-off tournament at the European Championship before I found the right line-up against Poland," he said.

"This process is going to take time. Nothing will be solved in two days or three months. All those players have to prove themselves in every single game."



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