Dealing With The Bare Bones

10 June 2013

EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013

Each weekday in the lead up to the EuroBasket Women, fibaeurope.com profiles the 16 teams who will be appearing in France. This time, it's our final hopefuls in Group C, namely injury-hit Latvia.

 

4. Elina Babkina (Latvia)
Elina Babkina led Latvia in both points (14.4 ppg) and assists (4.2 apg) at EuroBasket Women 2011

Road to EuroBasket Women 2013: It was a tight squeeze for Latvia last summer as they finished behind Italy in Qualification Round Group E, with the same 5-3 record as Greece, but just scraped through regardless.

 

Team History: Latvia are searching for a fifth successive quarter-final place, their best performance coming six years ago in Italy when they reached the last four of the competition, but just missed out on a first medal.

 

Keep an Eye On: Elina Babkina led the way two years ago in Poland and she is likely to do the same this time around. Debate has always raged about her best position in the backcourt, although her strength is that she can play both roles and this versatility will be useful for Latvia. She will have to have a big tournament both scoring wise, creating for her team-mates ad also limiting turnovers if success is to be achieved. Ieva Krastina was superb last summer from behind the three-point line and more of this would be welcomed, although she can probably expect closer defensive attention and will have to be prepared for this. Although notably, she is more than just a shooter and can also pick out incisive passes to her colleagues.

 

X Factors: As if losing the likes of veteran stars Anete Jekabsone, Gunta Basko-Melnbarde wasn't bad enough, the additional retirements of Zane Tamane and Ieva Kublina further weakened the Latvian roster. Then, when both Aija Putnina and Sabine Niedola sustained injuries which ruled them out of the action in France, it left head coach Aigars Nerips with only the bare bones to choose from in the paint. Unsurprisingly, this is where Latvia will be potentially exposed, since only Liene Jansone and Aija Brumermane possess any kind of true experience at this level under the basket. The forward line looks fragile and any further injuries which are commonplace during the rigours of tournament basketball, as well as foul trouble, could be their downfall. Opponents know they can be aggressive in attacking the Latvian post players, knowing if they do draw fouls, they will struggle and that is something which needs to be managed and mitigated by Coach Nerips. But, they do have some really exciting young players, many of whom have excelled at youth level, then progressing either in the Latvian League or in the NCAA. These young players will have to find their feet quickly at the elite level, but Latvia do have a track record of young players stepping up to the plate in difficult circumstances.

 

In Summary: Already with a number of high-profile retirements to cope with in recent years, a subsequent injury crisis in the frontcourt has compounded the headache for head coach Nerips, who will take something of a skeleton squad to Trelaze. With such slim pickings to choose from, the good news is that Babkina is back to orchestrate matters in the backcourt and if Krastina shoots the ball like she did last summer, it might not all be doom and gloom. However, their chances of extending their run of quarter-final appearances look to be remote at this moment. But, Latvia always seem to defy the odds in this competition.


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