French basketball fans provided Bourges Basket’s Anete Jekabsone with a nice ovation when the Latvian native held up the 2005 FIBA Europe Young Women’s Player of the Year award in this evening's French Women’s Cup final in Paris.
Just before the start of the second half, FIBA Europe Secretary General Nar Zanolin presented Jekabsone with the custom-designed trophy, which she won based on a selection from international media.
“It is a great honour and I am very proud to receive the award,” said Jekabsone in a fibaeurope.com exclusive interview.
||I’m going to start talking to people in Latvia about this (the Year of Women’s Basketball) and hopefully it can make a difference
Unfortunately for these fans in France, they will not be able to watch Europe’s top young women’s player for too much longer as Jekabsone will be heading east after the season.
France’s loss is Russia’s gain as the 176-cm forward will bring her talented all-around abilities to Dynamo Moscow.
“I like to move around and I don’t like to stay in one place for too long,” Jekabsone said.
“I like new experiences and Russia has a very strong level, so I am looking forward to playing there and showing my best.”
Jekabsone has been playing in France for three years, starting with USO Mondeville in 2004 and then with Bourges for the last two seasons.
“It has been a great experience playing here,” she said.
“These three years have probably been the best experience in my career and I want to finish this year as champions of France.”
Prior to joining Dynamo Moscow, Jekabsone will focus on helping Latvia qualify for the 2007 EuroBasket Women.
In EuroBasket 2005, Jekabsone had a stellar performance which solidified her status as one of the rising stars on the continent. She averaged 19.6 points per game and helped Latvia to their best performance in EuroBasket Women history.
“I really enjoyed playing in EuroBasket last year and I will be there again to help my country. It is a great to represent your country, especially a small country like Latvia,” Jekabsone said.
Unfortunately for Jekabsone, Latvia lost the game for fifth place, which meant they did not automatically qualify for the 2006 FIBA Women’s World Championship nor the 2007 EuroBasket Women.
The Baltic country was given a tough assignment in the EuroBasket Women Qualifying Round as they were drawn with Belgium and Slovakia in Group E.
|Jekabsone tallied over 19 points a game, 5.3 rebounds and 4 assists in EuroBasket Women 2005|
“It will not be easy,” she said.
“We have a very tough group. Belgium particularly is a strong team.”
Despite being a part of history with Latvia’s highest-placed EuroBasket Women's team, Jekabsone feels that women’s basketball doesn’t receive much recognition in her country, mainly due to financial reasons. She sees the FIBA Europe Year of Women’s Basketball project as a potential means to improve the sport’s image in her country.
“I’m going to start talking to people in Latvia about this (the Year of Women’s Basketball) and hopefully it can make a difference.”
Having been a part of national team success, Jekabsone hopes that one day she can be a part of a top Latvian women’s club.
“My dream is to finish my career playing with a very good Latvian team.”
Jekabsone comes from a basketball family – both her father and grandmother played with the USSR national team.
“I was born with basketball,” she said with a laugh.
And in a perfect world, Jekabsone will conclude playing basketball in the same place where she was introduced to the game.