EuroBasket 2015 Group D hosts Latvia announced on Thursday a 12-man roster for the big tournament which aims to strike a balance between seasoned veterans and enthusiastic debutants.
Janis Blums, the 33-year-old shooting who made his senior national team debut in 2005, is poised to step out in his sixth EuroBasket.
Dairis Bertans and Kristaps Janicenoks, who led Latvia in scoring at EuroBasket 2013, alongside point guard Janis Strelnieks, will assume the main load in the backcourt.
Big men Kaspars Berzins, Martins Meiers, Mareks Mejeris and Rolands Freimanis will form the frontcourt, just as they did at EuroBasket 2013.
On the other hand, Haralds Karlis, Zanis Peiners, Janis Timma and Kaspars Vecvagars are the four new faces who will get their first taste of a major tournament in front of their home crowd in Riga.
For Karlis and Peiners this experience also marks their national team debut while Timma was considered a lock for the team this time round after nearly making the final cut two years ago and then putting in a string of good performances in last summer’s 2nd Qualification Round.
As far as Vecvagars is concerned though, the honour of making Latvia’s final EuroBasket roster is not only a testament to his enormous potential but also to his mental strength.
The 22-year-old point guard, who will be the youngest player on the Latvian team, spent almost a year sidelined through injury shortly after delivering a stellar display at the U20 European Championship of 2013, where Latvia won silver for the first time in their history.
“After Thursday’s morning practice I thanked the last three players who did not make the cut, Martins Laksa, Davis Rozitis and Andrejs Selakovs,” said Latvia head coach Ainars Bagatskis.
“All three were real candidates for a spot on a roster and helped the team become stronger.
“I am sure that during these six weeks [of training camp] Martins, Davis and Andrejs gained useful new experience and got ready to prepare for the new season.
“In training, everybody worked to their full potential and everyone is ready to play at full strength from day one in the tournament.
“Throughout the course of preparations there was a motivational competition between Haralds and Martins Laksa (for a small forward spot), but at the last minute the coaching staff opted to choose Haralds.
“By looking at our opponets [in Group D], we came to the conclusion that Lithuania are the only team that base their game around a dominant center.
“Given these circumstances, it would be difficult to take more big guys, especially since (small forward) Janis Timma can also play at the ‘4’ spot.
“That is why we decided to release Andrejs Seļakovs and Davis Rozitis.”
Latvia will take to the floor on Saturday to take on Belgium in their Group D premiere and will then go up against Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Estonia.
Latvia’s EuroBasket 2015 final roster: Dairis Bertans, Kaspars Berzins, Janis Blums, Rolands Freimanis, Kristaps Janicenoks, Haralds Karlis, Martins Meiers, Mareks Mejeris, Zanis Peiners, Janis Strelnieks, Janis Timma, Kaspars Vecvagars.