|Kristine Vitola, seen here at youth level for Latvia|
By Paul Nilsen
Mention the need for Kristine Vitola to perhaps get more physical in the paint and you can forgive her for wanting to let out a scream of frustration.
Instead, the Latvia center is polite enough to acknowledge the suggestion with an altogether more tempered response.
"It has been an area of focus for me for a lot of years," she explained through partially gritted teeth, as she stepped off the court having made her Final Round debut in Szombathely.
The desire to find an extra physical edge under the basket has become something of a necessity for the Riga native.
That's because she has just penned a deal with CB Avenida to play in EuroLeague Women for the first time.
"I have really been working on the physical side of things," stated Vitola with a little more vigour.
"I am also really hoping that playing in the competition can help me out with this aspect, because I will be going up against the very top players.
"It's a really good opportunity for me, although I am trying to concentrate on playing for my country before anything else right now."
Vitola has already shown she can be a menace on the glass after hauling down an eye-popping 16 rebounds during her inaugural Final Round outing for her nation.
Not that she was willing to take much credit after Latvia went down 76-60 against Serbia in their opener.
"I am only trying to focus on what the team needs me to do," insisted the 24-year-old.
|Vitola in Latvia's opening game against Serbia|
"Serbia are a very good team and we just made a lot of mistakes during the third quarter.
"We actually did a good job during the first half, but they were too strong after that."
Vitola is likely to continue evolving in Latvia national team colours and that will only raise her profile further - having won her pending club move to Avenida off the back of a good year in Zaragoza with Mann Filter.
"During my first year out of College, it was important to get a good feel for the professional game and take this important footstep," she mused.
"It feels good to be staying in the Spanish league, because it is exciting and really fast paced, which is how I like to play."
It seems like an eternity since Vitola went down with an ACL injury while playing at UTEP.
It was an incident which had initially looked like being her last act on an NCAA court.
However she opted to make a return and played out a second senior year in El Paso and it made all the difference to her outlook.
She explained,"I didn't think about quitting and I barely even think about the injury anymore.
"I feel it was always the right decision to go back as I didn't want to leave having went down with the ACL.
"Although it was tough after it first happened, I think it was a good choice to make."
Few in Texas would disagree.
And, don't be surprised if more than a few fans of the Miners are following the progress of their alumna in Hungary and will continue to do so when she hits the EuroLeague Women hardwood.