by Dan Casey
|Rolands Smits and Latvia started the U16 European Championship Men with a much celebrated win over Lithuania|
Many youngsters look forward to going abroad with their friends - but sightseeing and beach parties are low on the agenda for the participants at the U16 European Championship Men this summer. "There is no time!" laughs Latvian big man Rolands Smits.
FIBA Europe took some time out to catch up with Smits after a stellar performance in beating their neighbours Lithuania, 83-80. Smits poured in 23 points, using his size and a nice jump shot to hit 10 of his 17 attempts.
After the game, Smits explained that he expected such a performance, because he'd already seen it happen: "Before a game, I think about the moves that I will do, the decisions I will make. I try to imagine the situations I will be in. Then in the game, it's automatic. Today I am happy, because it worked as I imagined."
Latvia's squad, like the other participants at the U16 European Championship Men, is away from home for two weeks and mostly without their family. According to Smits, it's not a problem: "We are busy, trying to do our best for our country".
Latvia are hoping to improve on their best-ever tournament finish of 9th place (2007, 2009). The tournament can be long and a first-day victory can mean nothing if the next games aren't successful too. Smits said that, despite the late finish, the squad would probably try to go to sleep as early as possible, to be ready for morning practice.
Besides practice every morning and a game every day, how do the squad spend their freetime?
"We are never bored, there is always something to do. If you want to sleep, you can sleep - some guys sleep a lot! Otherwise we spend time together, doing typical things you know, checking YouTube and Facebook and listening to music. We have a good team relationship", states Smits.
Latvia will hope that the rest and relaxation, and guidance from coach Nikolays Mazurs and his staff, will help them to reach the quarter-finals for the first time ever.