World basketball map: Latvia

World basketball map: Latvia

We are recalling all foreign players that have ever played in the League, telling about foreign championships and National teams of different countries in World basketball map project. Today we are moving to Latvia.

Population: 1,9 mln
Players in the history of League: 58
Full list of playersJuris AlekseevsEmiys AnsonsGints Antrops, Artis Ate, Arturs AusejsIngus BankevicsKaspars Berzins, Janis Berzins, Martins Berkis, Dairis Bertans, Lauris Blaus, Janis Blums, Artjoms Butjankovs, Sandis Valters, Kaspars Vecvagars, Richmonds Vilde, Janis Gailitis, Davis Geks, Andrejs Grazulis, Raitis Grafs, Ilja Gromovs, Martins Gulbis, Ronalds Zakis, Ivars Zvigurs, Nikolajs Zotovs, Viktors Iljins, Klavs Cavars, Janis Kaufmanis, Verners Kohs, Mediss Kristaps, Rihards Kuksiks, Rodions Kurucs, Martins Laksa, Toms Liepins, Mareks Mejeris, Martins Meiers, Andris Misters, Andzejs Pasecniks, Zanis Peiners, Kristaps Plavnieks, Zigmars Raimo, Davis Rozitis, Peteris Salmins, Arturs Strelnieks, Janis Strelnieks, Roberts Stumbris, Janis Timma, Rolands Freimanis, Eduards Hazners, Arnolds Helmanis, Andrejs Selakovs, Aigars Skele, Armands Skele, Arturs Stalbergs, Ingus Jakovics, Kristaps Janicenoks, Niks Jansons, Gatis Jahovics

Among 58 Latvian players that have participated in VTB United League only 2 – Martins Berkis and Janis Strelnieks haven’t ever played for VEF, which has been part of the League since 2009 till 2019. Berkis wore Kalev jersey in 2009/10 season, and Strelnieks spent 2 seasons for Spartak (2011-13) and one season for CSKA (2019-20).

The best Latvian scorer in VTB League scorer is Janis Timma (1589 points), games played leader is Mareks Mejeris (139 games), and player who has been changing VTB League teams more than others is Kaspars Berzins (VEF, Krasnye Krylia, Nizhny Novgorod, Zenit, Avtodor).

The most titled Latvian payer in League’s history is Janis Timma. Forward has 3 medals, one silver (Khimki 2019) and 2 bronze (Zenit, 2016, 2017). Moreover, Timma is 2014/15 season Rookie Of the Year and Best Latvian Player of 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons.

Two Latvian ex-VTB League players are NBA part nowadays. Center Andzejs Pasecniks who has played for VEF since 2012 till 2015 is playing for Washington Wizards, and forward Rodions Kurucs who has spent 4 games in VTB League 2014/15 season now is wearing Brooklyn Nets jersey.

Basketball in Latvia

League: Latvian-Estonian Basketball League
Founded: in 2018
Number of teams: 15
League’s web-site

Latvian League that was founded in 1992 still exists, and ex-VTB League player Kristaps Janicenoks became its CEO lately. The most titled Latvian teams are Ventspils (10 wins), Broceni (8 wins) and VEF (7 wins).

Since 2018 Latvian-Estonian League has become the main competition for Latvian teams. There are 15 teams in the League, 7 of them are Latvian: ex-VTB United League team VEF, Ventspils, Ogre, Valmiera, Liepaja, Jurmala and Latvian University.

In the first Latvian-Estonian League season-2018/19 Latvian teams Ventspils and VEF became the best teams in a regular season, thus they met in championship’s final. At the season 2019/20 suspension moment two Latvian teams were the best as well – VEF and Ogre.

Besides Latvian-Estonian League Latvian teams participate in European cups. Last season VEF and Ventspils represented Latvia in Champions League.

Interesting fact

ASK Riga was one of the strongest and dominating teams in Europe in 50-s. The team won 3 Euroleague titles (1958-1960) and became USSR champion 3 times (1955, 1957, 1958) under legendary Alexandr Gomelsky coaching.

Latvia National team

FIBA rank: 27
FIBA members: since 1932
Achievements: Eurobasket champions (1935), Eurobasket silver medalists (1939), Olympic Games participation (1936)

Latvian Basketball Federation was founded much earlier than in many other countries – November 26, 1923. 29 April, 1924 the Latvians spent their first game, they beat Estonia National team in Tallinn – 20:16. On June 18, 1932 Latvia became one of 8 FIBA founding-members.

In 1935 in Geneva the first ever Europe championship took place, Latvia won gold medals back then. On their path to the historic victory they beat Hungary (46:12), Switzerland (28:19) and Spain (24:18).

A year later after Eurobasket triumph Latvia National team participated on Olympic Games for the first time (15th place), and in 1939 took Eurobasket silver medals.

Since 1946 till 1991 Latvian Players had played for USSR National team.

Since 1993 Latvia has 11 Eurobasket participations (from 13 possible). The best one was in 2017, they took 5th place. Back then, Latvia National team lost to Slovenia (97:103) in a tight game, Slovenia became the champions of Europe.

Nowadays Latvia National team is ranked 27th by FIBA, 15th among European teams.

The most famous Latvian players in history

Valdis Valters. Eurobasket MVP (1981), World champion (1982), 2-time Eurobasket champion (1981, 1985) and 6-time Latvia champion (1992-1997). In 2017 Valdis Valters became the first Latvian player to enter FIBA Hall of fame.

Kristaps Porzingis. 4th pick of 2015 NBA Draft and Rising star of Eurocup (2015). In 2018 Krsitaps Porzingis became the first Latvian player who participated in NBA All-Star Game. Today the center that plays for Dallas Mavericks is the most popular Latvian player.

Janis Krumins. The Latvian giant (2.20 m), three-time Euroleague champion (then – FIBA European champions cup), 4-time USSR champion and 3-time Olympic Games silver medalist. Moreover, Krumins was the top scorer of first three Euroleague finals.

Valdis Muiznieks. Shooting guard that was Krumins teammate in ASK Riga won Euroleague 3 times, won USSR title 4 times and became 3-time silver medalist of Olympic Games.

Gundars Vetra. World Cup 1990 silver medalist and 4-time Russia champion as CSKA player. Gundars Vetra became the first Latvian player, played in NBA in 1992/93 season, he spent 13 games for Minnesota Timberwolves. After he retired Vetra became a successful women teams’ coach.

Worth mentioning: Andris Bierdins, Rudolfs Jurcins, Davis Bertans

Dmitriy Kolinov