Jekabsone Loves Award But Wants Team Success

17 January 2006

By Tom Ross, PA Sport

Anete Jekabsone, the newly crowned FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year, has no intention of resting on her laurels after her excellent 2005.

Jekabsone, who has dazzled for French club Bourges Basket this season, is delighted with her individual honour but is more interested in achieving team glory in the EuroLeague Women, a competition the club has already won three times before.

Speaking to PA Sport on behalf of FIBA Europe, Jekabsone said: "There are many good players, so I suppose I'm very happy to have won this award. I must be doing okay.

Anete Jekabsone (Bourges Basket)
Anete Jekabsone
"But it will be even better if the team can keep on winning games. Everything has been going so well and if we play as well as we can, we can reach the Final Four and then everything is possible."

The Latvian international guard has basketball in her blood as both her mother and father played the sport in what was then the Soviet Union.

The USSR was one of the powerhouses of the women's game.  The break-up of the Soviet empire means that Jekabsone plays for a nation with a small population of three million but that does not deter the woman who is proud to represent a country that is even younger than she is.

At the EuroBasket Women in Turkey, she was outstanding. Listed as a forward, Jekabsone's versatility allowed her to step into the point guard position when Ilze Ose-Hlebovicka was knocked out of the tournament with a knee injury.

Jekabsone performed well, averaging 19.6 points, four assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 steals per contest.

Sadly for Jekabsone, she and her country were blown out in the fifth/sixth place game by France, who took up the final place on offer for the FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil.

"It's my country," she said. "Of course I'm proud to play for them and it makes me feel very happy."

Asked what she would most like to achieve in the game, the Riga-born 22-year-old said:

Definitely there is one thing I would really like to achieve and that is to represent my country at the Olympic Games ...
Anete Jekabsone
which is the best thing that could happen to me." 

Although she is too modest to say so, Jekabsone is her country's biggest female basketball star and she recognised this for her dream to come true the national side will need to develop. 

"Maybe it will be hard for us to get to the Olympics (in Beijing) but if we can improve and develop as a team, there is a chance we could get to the Games, even if it's not this time."

In the shorter term, Jekabsone is concentrating on Bourges and admits she loves life in her adopted town.

"We are a good team and the atmosphere is good," said Jekabsone. "It is a small town but it's great and the people love basketball here."

She knew early in life that she wanted to make her career in basketball.

"I started playing at the age of seven and I had an advantage because both my mother and my father played the game," she said.

"People started to notice me on the international stage when I was playing for my country at Junior European level and then the agencies started to show an interest and it was time for me to move abroad," said Jekabsone.

"I left (for Mondeville) when I was 18 and although it was quite hard for me at first, I gradually settled down."

Jekabsone, who measures 1.76 metres, admits she doesn't have too much free time and finds it difficult to return home to Latvia.

"When I do get some free time I like to go swimming and sometimes I go bowling as well," she said. "I also like to watch men's basketball when I get the chance and my favourite players are Dwyane Wade and Emanuel Ginobili."

Ginobili, instrumental in the San Antonio Spurs winning the NBA title last year, knows what it's like to play in the Olympics as he was Argentina's leading player on their 2004 gold medal winning team in Athens.

Whether Jekabsone gets the chance to play on that same stage remains to be seen but she will certainly give it her best shot.


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