Helmanis eager for Kurland derby

The last evening before the start of the Olybet BBL Cup has come upon us and the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) finishes up the introductory interviews with Liepaja/Triobet – the host team.


This will be the team’s second run for the title, as they finished second two years ago. Team head coach Uvis Helmanis and Dwayne Johnson shared some thoughts about the upcoming season. The coach told us all about the moves in personnel, the ceiling of the team and the importance of the home crowd, while the newly signed point guard was a bit more talkative and shared some parts of his summer routine, told us about adjusting to the European game and gave us a short look at what we’ll see from him on the court.

Coach Uvis Helmanis was slightly secretive about the possible additions to the team, but it is clear that the roster might not yet be set in stone. Nevertheless, he is very pleased with the summer market moves as they are right now. Liepaja did a good job filling the positions they needed most and they should be force to be reckoned with.

Helmanis named great team chemistry as the strongest weapon of the team and hopefully, with high team morale, all the others aspects fall into place themselves. He was adamant that chemistry will be of vital importance in tomorrow’s match-up against Ventspils. The game itself has some sentimental value to both teams.

“This will be Kurland’s derby, so it will definitely be an important game. Match-ups against Ventspils are always something special!”

Another key to the game, according to the 42-year-old specialist, will be fan support: “Fan support is always like a sixth player on the court! At the end of last season, we had a wonderful support and we are now doing our best to get our fans back into the arena, to let them have something to cheer for – not only in the BBL Cup, but also in the upcoming BBL and LBL seasons. Hopefully, we will be one of the 2-3 teams posing the greatest threat competing for the championship this year.”

Dwayne Johnson, who nearly singlehandedly led Southeastern University to the NAIA Division II Final Four last season, is still familiarizing with European basketball and getting used to the “smarter, more detailed and a lot more physical” style of play, but he is sure to bring his A game already in the very first match-up.

We asked the point guard what fans should expect from him and, as it turns out, the on-and off-court Dwayne Johnson are two complete opposites.

“The fans can expect someone who is just a savage on the court, works hard, and is a team player. I’m just a competitor who sacrifices for the team and will do anything to capture the victory. Off the court – a respectful, God-fearing man, who stays out of trouble and is willing to be a part of the community.”

 Johnson mentioned that during the summer, he worked extremely hard on his shooting from every angle and every game situation: “off the dribble, off the jab, from NBA range – anything you can think of, I have practiced it and am striving to be great at it. It’s all a work in progress and I’m taking it one day at a time.”

A mentality of this sort is sure to help Liepaja/Triobet reach new heights. They are taking the first step already tomorrow, with a battle against Ventspils in the Semifinals of the Olybet BBL Cup. On Sunday the home side will face either Siauliai or TU/Rock.