By Eurohoops Team/ email@example.com
Ainars Bagatskis has experienced some stressful situations in basketball, among them coaching Latvia against hosts France in front of 22,000 spectators at the FIBA EuroBasket 2015. But that pales in comparison to the torture he is going through the FIBA U16 European Championship 2019 – where he sits idly in the stands watching his son play.
His son Fred Bagatskis, who is Latvia’s second-leading scorer, is one of many players in the tournament in Italy with a sports family connections.
“It’s probably the most painful thing as a parent watching your son play. More difficult than coaching against (Serbian club Crvena) Zvevda with thousands of fans rooting against you or coaching against the France national team with 22,000 spectators. Those don’t mean anything compared to watching your child play,” said Bagatskis, who coached the Latvian senior national team from 2011 to 2017, competing at four EuroBaskets as well as coaching five seasons in the EuroLeague for Zalgiris, Budivelnyk, Nizhy Novgorod and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
But it’s not hard to see the pride in the eyes of the 52-year-old Bagatskis, who came to the games in Udine sporting a Latvija shirt.
“I really feel lucky in my life: coaching the national team for eight years and now I am proud of my son who is wearing the same Latvija jersey,” he added.
Fred Bagatskis is not the only player in Italy who can call on sports advice from a family member.
There was basketball royalty on hand in Udine as Yugoslavia/Croatia legend Dino Radja made the trip to Italy to see his son Roko Radja play for Croatia. Dino, who showed up in Udine sporting some Boston Celtics green, has another son in the game as Duje Radja is playing for Elon University in the United States.
Emanuel Sharp meanwhile is playing for the first time for Israel, a country where his father Derrick Sharp established close to legendary status as he played for Maccabi Tel Aviv for 15 years and helped the club to the 2001 FIBA SuproLeague title and two EuroLeague crowns. Emanuel Sharp, who was born in Israel but lives in the United States and plays high school basketball in Florida, said the reception for him coming to Israel to play for the country has moved him.
“It’s very loving. I feel great having such a support group behind me,” said Sharp, who leads the tournament in scoring through two games with 27.0 points.
Another connection belongs to Lithuania’s Oleg Kojenets, whose father Aleh Kojenets played for the Belarus youth and senior national teams from 1996 to 2009.
“My dad really helps me a lot. You can’t really put everything into words. He was the person who inspired me to play basketball, brought me to his games. I can definitely consider him to be my first coach,” said the younger Kojenets, who is second in scoring and the top rebounder for Lithuania.
Estonia’s Kaspar Kuusmaa also has years of experience from his father to call upon and learn from as Alvar Kuusmaa played from 1986 to 2003 for Estonia’s national teams and was the head coach for Estonia at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2019, Division B.
A couple of players in Udine have siblings who have already lined up for their country.
Slovenian Urban Klavzar, who is playing in his second U16 tournament, is the younger brother of Nejc Klavzar, who played at the U16 Division B tournament twice and competed at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017 and FIBA U20 European Championship 2019 as well.
Russian point guard Mikhail Vedishchev has plenty of basketball in his family as well. His older brother Zakhar Vedishchev earlier this summer helped Russia to fifth place at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019. And his father Andrey Vedishchev is the president of Russian club Lokomotiv Kuban.
North Macedonia power forward Amar Hot’s older brother Elvis Hot played at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016, Division B; and France center Victor Wembanyama’s older sister Eve Wembanyama won the title at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship 2017.
Italy guard Davide Casarin, meanwhile, is the son of Federico Casarin, the president of Umana Reyer Venezia.
“The relationship between me and my father is great. I confide in him when we are at home. He trusts me, suggests me things and pushes me to be better and enjoy the game everyday,” the younger Casarin said.
But for a couple of the U16 European players, the family sports connection stems from outside of basketball.
Serbia’s Vuk Boskovic, for example, is the younger brother of Tijana Boskovic, who is one of the best volleyball players in the world. The 22-year-old opposite spiker helped Serbia to the gold medal at the 2018 World Championship and 2017 European Championship – both times being named the MVP – as well as picking up silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics. And she is the two-time reigning CEV Female Volleyball Player of the Year.
And the name of Spain’s Inaki Ordonez Ochoa may sound familiar to some handball fans as Inaki Ordonez helped Spanish club CD Bidasoa to the EHF Champions League title in 1995.
It’s always exciting to see the future of basketball on display at a tournament like the FIBA U16 European Championship 2019. And it makes it that much more intriguing to know there is a connection to the game’s past as well – not to mention links to other sports.