|"I am an old guy and, you know, old people are superstitious" - Kristaps Janicenoks|
By Dimitris Kontos
Janicenoks turns 33 in March but, a few months after averaging 9.6 points on an amazing 52% from three-point range to help Latvia reach eighth place at FIBA EuroBasket 2015, Janicenoks is leading Ventspils in scoring in the FIBA Europe Cup with 13.6 points per game.
Superstitious? Yes, in the sense Janicenoks is set in his ways.
One routine he keeps religiously is taking trips to his favourite country, Italy, where he spent a big part of his career.
"I go every year, but only for a couple of days each time. I gain 2-3 kilos, so it's dangerous to stay for longer," he says laughing.
Another of his routines?
"I never make predictions. That's something for the journalists, not me," he says.
|By defeating CEZ Nymburk, BK Ventspils are now within touching distance of the next round of the FIBA Europe Cup|
Even under torture, the Latvian veteran would not admit Ventspils are now favourites to get out of Group P of the Round of 32, after edging out CEZ Nymburk 72-69 on Tuesday and improving to 3-1.
Let alone utter a word about far they could reach in the competition.
"I know everybody says this, maybe it's a cliché, but I really take it one game at a time," he said.
"I only think about the next opponent. I don't look at other teams, I don't look at other groups.
"Everybody understands that it gets harder at every step and there are some really good teams.
"I just hope that we will play better basketball in every game and the better you play the better chances you have.
"We are one of the favourites to win the Latvian league, it's always been like this and it will probably be like this for the next 10 years or so.
"But I don't know what to expect from the FIBA Europe Cup.
"I played before in the Eurocup but I didn't know what level to expect here because it's a new competition."
BASKETBALL IN THE SNOW
|Kristaps Porzingis has played a major role in helping put Latvian basketball on the global map|
Janicenoks will not let slip anything about Ventspils's aspirations in this new European competition, but he readily admits the importance of taking part in it.
"It's good for the city, it's good for the organisation and for Latvian basketball in general," he explained.
"It's not a secret that everybody hears 'Latvia' and says 'where is that?' or 'how is that league?'
"So by playing in Europe we get to show ourselves, we show our basketball, people see that we have good coaches, we have good players.
"Local players have a big role in Latvia, while if you see Italian teams or the Czech teams it's foreign players that have the big roles.
"Latvia is a basketball country.
"Right now, basketball is the number one sport in Latvia, 100%.
"If you asked me 3-4 years ago, I would say ice hockey.
"Ok it snows here and people play ice hockey, but we can play basketball too.
"We proved that with the national team, with the players we have in the Euroleague and the Eurocup, with Kristaps Porzingis who now has big responsibility as a young guy in the NBA."
|Along with Janis Blums (left), Janicenoks has been one of the stalwarts of the Latvian national team|
Janicenoks learned about Latvia securing a place in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament right after that pivotal game against Nymburk.
It is the perfect opportunity for the national team to show the world once again that Latvians can play basketball too.
Or maybe something even more important that that.
"It's a very big deal for us," he admitted.
"This was our goal, to try to go to Rio.
"I know how it sounds, but now we have a chance to give this battle.
"And I honestly think we have a good chance.
"There is already a big buzz in Latvia, everybody is talking about it.
"We never have played at the Olympics and we could make history.
"Everybody wants to make history.
"Even if I personally don't get to play but the team goes there, I would still really, really enjoy it, I would feel like a part of it.
"Maybe when you are getting old you are getting sentimental.
"But to be a part of it, it would be a big honour for me.
"I want us to keep basketball in number 1, where it belongs.
"Then we can leave it up to the young guys, like Porzingis, to continue from there."