|22 July 2012|
By Jared Grellet
|Rolands Zakis cheered up Gustavs Treimanis, Arturs Grinbergs and David Cima after Latvia's loss against Russia |
When Ronalds Zakis turns up at a basketball stadium, it is usually 16-year-olds sitting in the bleachers watching him play. However, this week the shoe is on the other foot for the BK Ventspils power forward.
The 25-year-old has been a notable attendee at the Dadu U16 European Championship Men, turning up to Latvia's first two group B games to cheer on players that may one day take his position on the Ventspils senior team.
Zakis has become an integral cog in the Ventspils setup since moving to the club from VEF Riga in 2008, averaging over 20 minutes a night across three seasons in the Latvian Basketball League (LBL) for a return of 11 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.
Last season the 2.07m, 105kg Talsi native also helped take Ventspils to the quarter-finals of EuroChallenge for a second consecutive year.
Despite a strong domestic season, the talents of the former U20 and U18 national team member were not required for the Latvian senior men's team this summer with the power forward cut from the final squad.
Instead, Zakis has remained in Ventspils to prepare for the up-and-coming season, along with teammate Akselis Vairogs, allowing the pair plenty of time to check out the next generation of European stars on display in the Latvian port city.
|Wants the juniors to have fun: Ronalds Zakis|
For Zakis, the noticeable aspect of the tournament has been the height of so many of the players, who despite their young age have already eclipsed two metres.
"I have been coming to watch Latvia play but I have caught some glimpses of the other games and the size of some the guys is unbelievable," Zakis told FIBAEurope.com, adding, "the level here is really good."
However, Zakis was not about to go as far as stating which players at the tournament have what it takes to go on and become stars at senior level.
He claims that the next two years will play a major role in the development of the teenagers as basketball players.
"The next two years will be really important for them because right now you can not see how their bodies will develop. Everybody is tall but the muscle development is not great. This will start to change in the next two years."
With this is mind, Zakis believes all the players should only have only have one major concern for this tournament.
"For now they should just have fun."