Davis Bertans admits Latvia making World Cup Top 8 is the biggest moment in his career

2023-09-05T16:43:18+00:00 2023-09-11T15:52:55+00:00.

Antonis Stroggylakis

05/Sep/23 16:43


Davis Bertans reveals what’s the “heart” of the Latvian national team and admits that making the World Cup quarterfinals marks the biggest moment in his career.

By Antonis Stroggylakis / astroggylakis@eurohoops.net

Jakarta, Indonesia – Latvia star forward Davis Bertans experienced plenty of suspense against France and Spain, so he didn’t need any of it against Brazil.

Maybe that’s why he and his teammates made sure to turn that knockout game into a complete rout, 104 – 84.

“At least we had a little bit of time to gather our thoughts before the final buzzer now thanks to this big lead. The emotions weren’t as high as, for example, in the game against France,” Bertans said to Eurohoops on the historic qualification of Latvia in the quarterfinals of the 2023 FIBA World Cup thanks to a blowout win over Brazil. An outstanding first-time achievement for a country with a population of barely two million people.

Bertans admitted that considering all the above, this is the highlight of his career so far.

“I feel like… yes,” Bertans said when asked by Eurohoops if this is the biggest moment as a player. “Every game playing for the national team is already up there. And this tournament, making history for our country… I’m pretty sure that every single person [in Latvia] was at the TV screens or watching big screens somewhere in the cities watching us.”

“We felt that energy from almost two million people,” Bertans added.

These people are now hoping to see their country’s national team break new ground again in the quarterfinals of the World Championship vs. undefeated Germany Wednesday (6/9). And Latvia will definitely not be traveling to Manila simply for the “joy of being there” or to “enjoy the experience”

Germany, led by such players as Dennis Schroder, the Wagner brothers Mo and Franz, along with Daniel Theis, comes off a 100-71 victory over Luka Doncic’s Slovenia. The core of the team was molded in the 2022 EuroBasket where they won the bronze medal and now, after a couple of quality additions and with their chemistry even more potent, they looked to have jumped onto a whole new level of dominance.

They look scary but there’s nothing that intimidates the guys who eliminated mighty France and pushed defending world champion Spain closer to the exit door before they were actually left out of the tournament by Canada.

“We said that since Day 1: We didn’t come here just to participate,” Bertans said. “The same applies now in the quarterfinals. We’re going to rest, gather our thoughts, look at our opponent, and fight for the win in every single game we have left.”

Most fans outside of Latvia quickly recognize Davis and his brother Dairis. They’ve seen Rolands Smits in the EuroLeague. There’s also Rodions Kurucs, who spent three years in the NBA.

Now they are getting familiar with some lesser-known players like Arturs Zagars, Kristers Zoriks, and Andrejs Grazulis who “force” people to pay attention with their performance in the World Cup.

Zagars had 22 points plus five assists in a victory over France and is the leading passer of the team with 5.6 assists. Zoriks, a key contributor against Spain, follows with 4.2 dimes.

As for Grazulis, he scored 24 points on 11-15 shots while dishing out five assists against Brazil. He’s the co-leading scorer of the team now, being tied with Smits for 13.4 points.

“The heart of the team is that every single guy does not care about their statistics,” Bertans mentioned. The new Oklahoma City Thunder player specifically emphasized the words “does, “not” and “care,”.  “Whoever got the game going we’re going to go to them. I don’t think that anyone would’ve put Grazulis on the list of the top scorers or “Player of the Game” in the game that would sent us to the quarterfinals.”

“He’s been playing aggressively”, Bertans said on Grazulis. “He’s been playing with heart and passion and when the shots are going we’re going to look for him. He was always in a great position to score.”

Zagars would later echo Bertans’ words about the team’s unselfishness. “That’s one of the most dangerous weapons,” the 23-year-old guard said. “Anybody can go off on any game. Can score or make plays or whatever. Offensively and defensively. I think we had a different Player of the game on every win we had. That shows a lot about our team versatility.”

The mindset of Latvia players and their willingness to share the ball and have everyone involved on the court has also helped head coach Luca Banchi form plans for an impressive brand of offensive basketball: Lots of passes, quick ball movement and creation of superb open looks to the basket. “When you have everyone playing like that, willing to give everything for the team and sacrifice themselves and give everything that makes it easy for the coach,” Bertans commented.