BBL.net sat down with Latvian prospect Janis Berzins (202-F-93, agency: Players Group), who snatched up the Player of the Month honors for the month of January to talk about his improving game and the upsurge of Valmiera in the Top 16 round.
Having become the youngest player to claim the award this season, the 19-year-old forward from Latvia was happy about the opportunity to be playing big minutes in Valmiera, but acknowledged that there is still a long road ahead to success.
First of all, congratulations on winning the award. What do you think has been the main key to the improvement for you personally and the team as the whole in the month of January?
Thanks for the congratulations. It's a real honour for me. I didn't earn this award alone and these congratulations must be directed to the entire team. It would be impossible without my teammates and the coach, who put effort in order to succeed. We look to every game as it will be our last one - we don't sort opponents and prepare ourselves to fight at the highest level all the time. January in BBL was successful. I would like to point out the victory against one of the top Lithuanian team Siauliai on the home court. This win was big and emotional.
You finished the regular season on a quite bad stretch, but managed to take the first two games in the Top 16. Is this going to be a boost of extra confidence for the team?
I must agree - the first round was really tough. Every team in BBL is competitive and must be respected. The weekend when we succeeded in both games over Sakalai and Siauliai was terrific. We are young team and such victories increase the level of confidence to keep winning streak alive.
What were the goals for the team coming into the season? Now, that you started the second round very well, how far do you think you can go in BBL?
The goals before the season were to be one of the top 8 teams in BBL, but primarily qualify for the next round and fight for the medals in the Latvian Basketball League. Currently, we are on the right track and both personally and team-wise, we will do all it takes to reach the goals.
How would you describe yourself as a player? What would you name as your strengths and weaknesses?
I have always thought that the most objective evaluation can be given from people aside - it's difficult to assess myself. From my point of view, I feel comfortable in offensive basketball and during the season I have worked hard to improve my defensive skills. I am looking forward to find the right balance in order to be equally productive on offense and on defense. I still have to work a lot to become a great basketball player.
You did not have a big role with VEF last season, during the summer you played behind Janis Timma and Ojars Silins in the U20 national team. Are you enjoying being one of the key players on the team?
First of all, regarding to my previous season on VEF Riga roster, I gained a lot of experience. Even though my playing time was limited, during my minutes on court and in the training process against such a great sparing partners as Kristaps Janicenoks, Sandis Valters and Gatis Jahovics, I learnt a lot. It is immeasurable. Furthermore, I truly appreciate the help and advice from coaches Ramunas Butautas and Nikolajs Mazurs.
Regarding to U20 performance, we ended up in a high 6thplace in the European Championship. In such championship, I was a year younger than the majority of players and my role was to be back up player for Janis Timma. I am thankful to coach Roberts Stelmahers for trusting me in clutch episodes. My personal opinion is I didn't show my best and it motivates to work even harder. Furthermore, I enjoyed coach Stelmahers' work and professionalism - I see him as one of the best new coaches in our region.
Would it be safe to say that the loan move to Valmiera was the right decision? How are you finding working with coach Krumins?
Personally, I think it was right move - VEF Riga is one of the leading teams in Eurocup and regarding to current roster my playing time could have been limited. Mutually with the boards of VEF Riga and BK Valmiera, we agreed that playing a significant role in BBL and LBL would be the best for my development. Furthermore, Varis Krumins is professional coach for young players - it was an important aspect of making my decision.
What are your plans for the nearest future - will you be looking to come back to VEF and crack the rotation or are there other thoughts on your mind?
Right now, I don't want to focus on such thoughts. The most important thing right now is to concentrate to every game and work hard at practices in order to reach goals. I will be happy to discuss right after the season.
What are those goals you set yourself for a long-term perspective?
As every player, I have set the highest goals for myself, but I will keep it as secret. In order to succeed, I must work really hard. I am ready to do all it takes and it is the most important thing. Only hard work and the right attitude can bring you success.
Interview original retrieved: bbl.net, Author: Simonas Baranauskas
On the 99th birthday of Estonian Republic, a historic episode was written in Estonian, European as well as world basketball history. 26 years after Dino and Andrea Meneghin faced each other in Italian league, a father played against son in a top-tier league. The all-time top scorer of Estonian basketball league, Valmo Kriisa (192-PG-74) (42) and a member of Estonian U16 NT Kerr Kriisa(187-PG-01) (16) faced each other for the first time as professionals as Tartu Ulikool hosted Valga in KML. [read more]
On the 99th birthday of Estonian Republic, a historic episode was written in Estonian, European as well as world basketball history. 26 years after Dino and Andrea Meneghin faced each other in Italian league, a father played against son in a top-tier league. The all-time top scorer of Estonian basketball league, Valmo Kriisa (192-PG-74) (42) and a member of Estonian U16 NT Kerr Kriisa (187-PG-01) (16) faced each other for the first time as professionals as Tartu Ulikool hosted Valga in KML. Tartu took a firm 85:69 win with 19+9rb from Janari Joesaar and 17+11rb from Janar Talts. Kerr Kriisa scored 2 points and dished 3 assists in 18 minutes. Valmo Kriisa had 4 points and 4 assists in 33 minutes in losing effort.
Recap of return leg of 1/8 Finals. Quarterfinalists determined - 2 days ago
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Kalev/Cramo - TTU 92-72 Kalev/Cramo cruised past TTU to sweep the eighth-final series. Kalev/Cramo looked well-organized offensively handing out 22 assists. Belarusian Vitali Liutych (198-92) scored 23 points and 7 rebounds to lead the charge for the winners and forward Erik Keedus (198-90) chipped in 12 points during the contest. Kalev/Cramo's coach allowed to play the deep bench players saving starting five for next games. Serbian center Nikola Vujovic (210-93, college: Georgian Court)... [read more]
Kalev/Cramo cruised past TTU to sweep the eighth-final series. Kalev/Cramo looked well-organized offensively handing out 22 assists. Belarusian Vitali Liutych (198-92) scored 23 points and 7 rebounds to lead the charge for the winners and forward Erik Keedus (198-90) chipped in 12 points during the contest. Kalev/Cramo's coach allowed to play the deep bench players saving starting five for next games. Serbian center Nikola Vujovic (210-93, college: Georgian Court) responded with 13 points and 6 rebounds and point guard Sander Saare (184-94) scored 14 points. Four TTU players scored in double figures. Top scorers: Kalev/Cramo: V.Liutych 23+7reb+2ast, E.Keedus 12+4reb+2ast, R.Veideman 11+3ast, M.Tollefsen 11+3reb, M.Dorbek 9+3reb+2ast, T.Eichfuss 8+4reb+3ast TTU: S.Saare 14+2reb+3ast, T.Raadik 14+3reb, J.Jarvelainen 14+2reb+2ast, N.Vujovic 13+6reb+1ast, S.Olmre 8+7reb+3ast, S.Viilup 5+3reb+2ast
Jekabpils eked out a narrow road win over Nevezis but it was not enough to reach the next round of competition. The guests trailed by 6 points after three quarters before their 32-23 charge, which allowed them to win the game. Jekabpils looked well-organized offensively handing out 23 assists. The best player for the winners was center Jurijs Aleksejevs (202-85) who had a double-double by scoring 20 points and 12 rebounds (on 8-of-9 shooting from the field). Point guard Rinalds Sirsnins (186-85) chipped in a double-double by scoring 13 points and 11 assists. Jekabpils' coach used an eleven-player rotation in such tough game. Croatian guard Toni Prostran (182-91) produced a double-double by scoring 11 points, 5 rebounds and 12 assists and forward Vaidotas Volkus (203-85, college: Redlands CC) added 21 points respectively for the hosts. Both teams had four players each who scored in double figures. Top scorers: Jekabpils: J.Aleksejevs 20+12reb+2ast, P.Veselovs 17+3reb, R.Sirsnins 13+2reb+11ast, J.Antrops 10+5reb+3ast, A.Selakovs 7+5reb+1ast, A.Vitins 6+3reb Nevezis: V.Volkus 21+4reb+2ast, K.Petrukonis 14+6reb, T.Prostran 11+5reb+12ast, P.Petrilevicius 11+3reb, I.Smiljanic 8+8reb+5ast, I.Vaitkus 6+2reb+1ast
Jurmala upset Barons Riga on the road but the hosts easily advanced into the next round thanks to a massive road win in Game 1. Barons Riga was ahead by 9 points after three quarters before a 29-18 charge of Jurmala, which allowed them to win the game. Strangely Barons Riga outrebounded Jurmala 41-27 including a 19-7 advantage in offensive rebounds. Barons Riga was plagued by 25 personal fouls down the stretch. Center Marcis Saulitis (207-97) notched 15 points and 7 rebounds (on 7-of-8 shooting from the field) to lead the effort and forward Janis Dilevka (200-88) supported him with 8 points and 10 rebounds. Even a double-double of 16 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks by center Davis Rozitis (215-90, college: Hawaii) did not help to save the game for Barons Riga. American guard Tyler Larson (190-91, college: S.Dakota) added 21 points and 8 rebounds for the hosts. Top scorers: Jurmala: M.Saulitis 15+7reb+1ast, A.Duselis 14+4reb, E.Elksnis 14+2reb+3ast, D.Gutmanis 9+1reb+1ast, E.Jeromanovs 8+2reb+6ast, J.Dilevka 8+10reb+2ast Barons Riga: T.Larson 21+8reb+2ast, D.Rozitis 16+14reb+3ast, D.Krestinin 12+8reb+1ast, D.Geks 9+4reb+3ast, R.Freimanis 8+3reb+1ast, S.Metra 6+2reb+1ast
Pieno Zvaigzdes outgunned BK Ogre to seal their quarterfinal appearance. The game without a history. P.Zvaigzdes led from the first minutes and controlled entire game increasing their lead in each quarter. P.Zvaigzdes shot 32 for 47 from the free-throw line, while BK Ogre only scored sixteen points from the stripe. They outrebounded BK Ogre 47-28 including a 37-24 advantage in defensive rebounds. P.Zvaigzdes looked well-organized offensively handing out 26 assists comparing to just 10 passes made by BK Ogre's players. Great defensive blocking was one of the keys in this match when P.Zvaigzdes made 7 blocks. 31 personal fouls committed by BK Ogre helped opponents get some easy free throw opportunities. Osvaldas Olisevicius (200-93) scored 13 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists to lead the charge for the winners and Ukrainian Andriy Agafonov (208-86, agency: AproK Sports Group) chipped in 17 points and 8 rebounds during the contest. Four P.Zvaigzdes players scored in double figures. Center Guntis Sipolins (206-93) responded with 12 points and 5 rebounds and point guard Kristaps Plavnieks (183-95) scored 13 points. BK Ogre's coach gave up on the game allowing to play ten players seeing no chance for a win. Top scorers: P.Zvaigzdes: E.Zabas 20+2reb+4ast, S.Babrauskas 18+5reb+2ast, A.Agafonov 17+8reb+1ast, O.Olisevicius 13+7reb+6ast, N.Balashov 9+4reb, I.Fiodorovas 8+2reb+3ast BK Ogre: K.Plavnieks 13+1reb+1ast, R.Zebergs 13+2ast, G.Sipolins 12+5reb, K.Apsitis 8+2reb+1ast, R.Niedra 6+4reb+2ast, G.Antrops 5+7reb
Liepaja/Triobet swept the eighth-final series versus TLU/Kalev. It looked good early as TLU/Kalev took a 1-point small lead at the end of first quarter. But then Liepaja/Triobet had a 25-15 second period charge getting the lead and TLU/Kalev was not able to take back game control losing it eventually 73-86. Power forward Artjoms Butjankovs (205-91) orchestrated the victory by scoring 23 points and 9 rebounds. American guard Malcolm Griffin (193-91, college: Fresno Pacific, agency: Promotex) contributed with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists for the winners. Serbian center Djordje Dzeletovic (205-93, agency: AproK Sports Group) replied with 13 points and 9 rebounds and Montenegrin center Stefan Knezevic (204-89) added 15 points and 8 rebounds in the effort for TLU/Kalev. Five TLU/Kalev players scored in double figures. Both coaches used bench players which allowed the starters a little rest for the next games. Top scorers: Liepaja/Triobet: A.Butjankovs 23+9reb, A.Ausejs 21+1reb+3ast, M.Griffin 13+5reb+8ast, C.Montgomery 8+2reb, K.Pauls Lasmanis 7+3reb+1ast, R.Krastins 5+4reb+1ast TLU/Kalev: S.Knezevic 15+8reb+1ast, K.Saks 14+2reb, D.Dzeletovic 13+9reb+3ast, R.Tamm 13+6reb+2ast, K.Saage 10+2reb+3ast, J.Vahter 4+4reb+1ast
Vytautas marched past Parnu on the road to advance into the quarterfinal stage. The game without a history. Vytautas led from the first minutes and controlled entire game increasing their lead in each quarter. Vytautas outrebounded Parnu 43-31 including 31 on the defensive glass. They looked well-organized offensively handing out 21 assists. Power forward Regimantas Miniotas (206-96) had a double-double by scoring 12 points and 18 rebounds to lead the charge for the winners and forward Paulius Ivanauskas (195-87) chipped in 14 points and 9 assists during the contest. Four Vytautas players scored in double figures. Forward Mihkel Kirves (190-96) responded with a double-double by scoring 13 points and 10 rebounds and Lithuanian swingman Edvinas Seskus (196-95, agency: Players Group) scored 11 points and 7 rebounds. Top scorers: Vytautas: T.Klimavicius 18+6reb, P.Ivanauskas 14+4reb+9ast, R.Miniotas 12+18reb+2ast, D.Seskus 11+2reb+4ast, S.Kulvietis 11+2reb+1ast, T.Michnevicius 9+6reb+1ast Parnu: S.Sutt 14+2reb, M.Kirves 13+10reb+2ast, E.Seskus 11+7reb+3ast, D.Bubalo 8+7reb+2ast, R.Hallik 4+3reb+4ast, H.Parrol 2+1reb
Valmeira held off Rapla to punch their quarterfinal tickets. Valmiera looked well-organized offensively handing out 28 assists comparing to just 11 passes made by Rapla's players. Martins Laksa (200-90) scored 23 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists to lead the charge for the winners and American point guard Damier Pitts (177-89, college: Marshall) chipped in 15 points and 7 assists during the contest. Pitts is a former Eurobasket Summer League player, which is considered top international summer league in the market. Dutch center Thomas van-der-Mars (208-90, college: Portland) responded with a double-double by scoring 26 points and 12 rebounds (was perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line !!!) and Puerto Rican guard Rasham Suarez (190-92, college: S.Mississippi) scored 11 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Both teams had four players each who scored in double figures. Top scorers: Valmiera: M.Laksa 23+6reb+4ast, D.Pitts 15+4reb+7ast, A.Berzins 12+6reb, E.Jonats 11+9reb+1ast, L.Blaus 10+5reb, H.Karlis 6+1reb Rapla: T.van der Mars 26+12reb+1ast, I.Kajupank 14+3reb, M.Paasoja 12+1reb+1ast, R.Suarez 11+8reb+4ast, D.Bratoz 9+5reb+2ast, S.Kaldre 7+2reb+2ast
TU/Rock left no chance for Barsy Atyrau and eased into the next round. The game was mostly controlled by TU/Rock. Barsy Atyrau was better in third quarter 17-15. But it was not enough to take a lead and get a victory that evening. They dominated on the defensive end, holding Barsy Atyrau to just 6 points in first quarter and to 14 points in first half. TU/Rock held Barsy Atyrau to an opponent 25.0 percent shooting from the field compared to 41.5 percent accuracy of the winners. They outrebounded Barsy Atyrau 48-31 including 16 on the offensive glass. Lithuanian center Dominykas Milka (203-92, college: St.Rose, NY) had a double-double by scoring 15 points and 13 rebounds to lead the charge for the winners and American guard Mandell Thomas (188-93, college: Fordham) chipped in 17 points and 6 assists during the contest. American point guard Trevin Parks (180-91, college: Johnson C. Smith) responded with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists and Russian-Kazakhstan forward Pavel Micheev (201-83) scored 7 points and 8 rebounds. The winner was already known earlier in the game, so both coaches allowed to play the bench players saving starting five for next games. Top scorers: TU/Rock: M.Thomas 17+2reb+6ast, D.Milka 15+13reb+2ast, K.Meister 8+2reb+2ast, J.Joesaar 7+1reb, V.Jois 5+9reb+1ast, H.Eelmae 5+5reb Barsy Atyrau: T.Parks 18+6reb+5ast, M.Yevstigneyev 9+4reb, P.Micheev 7+8reb, P.Ilin 5+3reb+3ast, R.Utegen 4+2reb, V.Savchenko 1+2reb
Daiquan Walker (ex Etha) signs at Nevezis - 2 days ago
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Nevezis Kedainiai (LKL) landed 24-year old American point guard Daiquan Walker (188-84kg-93, college: Cent.Florida). He started the season at Etha in Cypriot Division A. In 14 games he averaged 13.6ppg, 2.9rpg and 3.0apg this season. The previous (12-13) season Walker played at another team Golden Knights in U.S. semi-pro league NCAA1 where in 31 games he had 4.0ppg, 1.9rpg and 1.6apg. He graduated from University of Central Florida in 2016 and it is his first season in pro basketball. B... [read more]
Nevezis Kedainiai (LKL) landed 24-year old American point guard Daiquan Walker (188-84kg-93, college: Cent.Florida). He started the season at Etha in Cypriot Division A. In 14 games he averaged 13.6ppg, 2.9rpg and 3.0apg this season. The previous (12-13) season Walker played at another team Golden Knights in U.S. semi-pro league NCAA1 where in 31 games he had 4.0ppg, 1.9rpg and 1.6apg. He graduated from University of Central Florida in 2016 and it is his first season in pro basketball.
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