12 - 20
August 2016
to read

Kurucs ready to lead Latvia with experience from last summer struggles

RIGA (FIBA U16 European Championship) - Arturs Kurucs helped Latvia stay in Division A of the FIBA U16 European Championship last summer. The guard believes that experience will help the team challenge for the title this year. 

Kurucs led Latvia in scoring at last summer’s U16 European Championship despite being a year younger. He also hit the eventual game winner with 43 seconds left against England in the Classification Games for 9th-16th Place to make sure Latvia avoided relegation with a 66-65 victory. 

"The game against England last summer for me was the most important one. I remember that I fully opened myself and my basketball because my motivation level was crazy," said Kurucs looking back. 

Kurucs is actually one of five Latvians who are expected to be back from last summer’s team along with Adrians Snipke, Arturs Zagars, Anrijs Miska and Armands Berkis. And Kurucs is certain the group will call on the struggle to finish in 11th this summer in Radom from 12-20 August. 

"Last year's experience will help our team to be ready in hard and pressure moments to stay calm and to not panic," said Kurucs, who averaged 12.6 points per game. "A tournament is long and we need to be focused throughout, and I think all of these players will help with this."

Kurucs is ready to give his all and figures that he will be called upon to be one of the team’s main scorers. 

"I'm going to try to do what the coach says to me, but there are games when you cannot score. So in those moments I'm going to be the first to help my team-mates do this in my place," Kurucs said. "We are trying to keep our good relationship off the court, and I'm especially focused on that because I know how important this is. I'm ready to be the leader of this team and I'm going to do that."

The Latvians are drawn into Group A with Italy, Spain and Sweden - a group that will not be easy, Kurucs knows.

"Last year's experience will help our team to be ready in hard moments and pressures moments to stay calm and to not panic. A tournament is long and we need to be focused throughout the tournament, and I think all of these players will help with this." - Kurucs

"I think it's quite a hard but interesting group. These teams will help us to see our weaknesses and be ready to play against the teams from the other groups," said Kurucs, who sees Latvia, Spain, Croatia, Serbia and Turkey as the top challengers for the title. 

"Everybody in Latvia is positive about our team, and in my vision, I'm sure we can be very good there," Kurucs said. 

The Cesis-native is thinking about matching or even improving on the country's best finish in the competition in 2014, when they grabbed second place. 

"Everybody is happy about the second place in 2014. It's already beaten history in Latvian basketball, so everybody is happy and hoping for a better performance," he said.

Kurucs actually has a bit more motivation to get a better result this summer. His brother Rodions Kurucs was named to the All-Star Five that year, and Arturs would love to do one better. 

"Rodi always said I'm not gonna beat him with my U16 team," Arturs said. "My plan is still to make it happen."