EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
|"I am very proud to be Latvian and I really love my country which makes this end moment quite painful for me."|
By Paul Nilsen
Former FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year Anete Jekabsone has spoken of her regret and sadness after finally admitting her glittering national team career with Latvia is officially over.
The newly crowned EuroLeague Women champion showed she was back near her sparkling best by helping UMMC Ekaterinburg to the title with a string of excellent cameo performances off the bench at Final Eight.
However, Latvia will not benefit from her experience and return to both form and fitness when they step out at EuroBasket Women in France.
"I am not playing for the national team anymore, so I guess I have now retired," confirmed the guard.
"It's really sad for me and quite difficult to talk about, because my last game was actually way back at Eurobasket Women 2009 in Riga.
"I am very proud to be Latvian and I really love my country which makes this end moment quite painful for me."
Whilst Jekabsone hadn't stepped out for some time with the national team, much of this gap was enforced due to a string of injury problems, including an ACL injury sustained at the start of 2012.
The 29-year-old confirmed she had initially feared the injury would signal the end of her career and also confirmed the view expressed by UMMC head coach Olaf Lange, that players sustaining ACL injuries shouldn't even be fully considered as being back on track until after at least a full calendar year has elapsed.
She said, "I totally agree with him because at the beginning, everybody told me around six to nine months, but it's now been more than a year and only now have I finally started to get back my true game and level of performance."
"It's a lot of hard work to come back and when it happened, I have to be honest and say that I was so down and depressed.
"I even told myself that my career was over and that this injury would mean I would never play again.
"After the surgery, I started the rehab process and I began to slowly get more positive and I can't believe how happy I am with where I am at now.
"Of course it helps with motivation to be able to return with a great club who have a great physio and of course to be able to practice every single day with the best players in the world," continued Jekabsone.
"You really have to be ready to play in a team like UMMC Ekaterinburg. If you step onto the court and you are not ready, then you can expect to be back onto the bench.
"You have to concentrate and always take your chances when they come, by playing hard, playing smart and generally doing your job well."
Jekabsone certainly leaves Latvian fans with some great memories, having inspired her country to a last four finish at EuroBasket Women in 2007 and a subsequent place at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
However, the permanent loss of Jekabsone is a major blow for Latvia, coming off the back of a number of other retirements including Zane Tamane, Ieva Kublina and Gunta Basko Melnbarde.
There's little doubt Jekabsone regrets having to take her decision and was quick to relay her desire to see Latvia move on and post a good display at EuroBasket Women in France.
"I hope more than anyone that the young players can come through and play some good basketball this summer," insisted Jekabsone.
"It would be great if new players can get Latvian women's basketball back near the top at some point in the future and this is what I hope for."