11 - 19
August 2017
15 Jekabs Beks (LAT), 20 Nikola Bojicic (MNE)
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Beks happy with decision of Latvia over Germany

PODGORICA (FIBA U16 European Championship 2017) - Latvia have reached the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017 and Germany are fighting against relegation to Division B. Looking at that, one could argue that Jekabs Beks made the right decision in the short term.

The center has averaged 6.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals in helping Latvia to the final eight and a matchup against Croatia with the chance of securing Latvia's first berth for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup. But Beks could have just as easily been playing for Germany in Podgorica.

"There are a lot of bigs on the German team and it's more difficult to play more minutes with them. I think I can play more here. I can showcase myself and my talent," said Beks, who was born and raised in Germany to a Latvian mother and German father. "The Latvian team is just great. I don't know if I could do this with Germany. I know that I am playing more than I would."

It seemed also like destiny that Germany and Latvia were playing simultaneously in the Round of 16 in Podgorica - Germany losing to Serbia and Latvia coming back to beat Russia in overtime. Germany were heavily recruiting the 6ft 8in (2.04m) Beks to play for the black, red and gold instead of the Latvian red and white.

"The Latvian team is more familiar and smaller. Germany is also good. It was a difficult decision," said Beks, who plays in Germany in the youth ranks of the second division Pro A side Crailsheim Merlins.

"I look forward to making it to the men's national team eventually. But here with the U16 team and next year with the U18 team we will try to win everything."

Latvia struggled in their first two games in Montenegro, losing to Spain and beating Sweden in a poor performance. But they rose to the challenge against Montenegro in the final group game, beating the hosts by 14 points to grab second place in the group and jump to the bottom of the bracket and avoid the likes of Lithuania, Serbia and Spain.

But Latvia needed an unlikely comeback to reach the final eight, fighting back from 11 points down in the final three minutes and needing a long three-pointer at the buzzer by Kristaps Kilps to force overtime.

"It's just great. We keep fighting and it's awesome what we have achieved so far, and we will try to go farther and reach the Semi-Finals," said Beks, who added that the team has still not played their best basketball. "I think we are pretty good, but we can still be much better. Every day we are making a step forward and we need to keep that rhythm going."

"I think I can play more here. I can showcase myself and my talent. The Latvian team is just great. I don't know if I could do this with Germany. I know that I am playing more than I would."Jekabs Beks

When asked what the team learned from the win over Russia, Beks said: "Of course that the team is like a family. If we are down we can fight back and win any game. That shows the great team spirit we have."

Latvia also are knocking on the door of history as a victory over Croatia would send the northern Europeans to their first FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup - as Latvia's 2014 second-place showing came in a non-qualifying year for the U17 global event.

"We will try our best. It would be great. We would be the first Latvian team to do it, and we will try to make history," Beks said. "It would be just so important. We have never been to the World Cup, and it would be motivation for future teams."

And it would be further confirmation to Beks that he made the right decision in the short term in choosing Latvia over Germany.