Kaufmanis: "We have to stay focused"

VALMIERA ‒ After leading Valmiera to the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) Playoffs, Janis Kaufmanis, for once, allowed his teammates to do most of the damage in the first Eight-Final leg against Nevezis, which the Latvian team won by 19 points.


Nevertheless, the 24-year-old shooting guard, who led the league in scoring with an average of 20.6 points per game in the regular season, was still at the spotlight, as he was presented with the BBL Best Scorer award before the game.

BBL.net spoke with Kaufmanis about what the award means to him, who he sees as the favorites to win the BBL and how he sees his future play out.

First of all, congrats on becoming the top scorer of the BBL regular season, Janis! What does this award mean to you?

Thanks, this award means a lot to me, because it is the first individual award in my professional career. Obviously, it would have been impossible without my great teammates, coaching staff and management, who trusted me.

Valmiera finished the regular season in fourth place in Group A, with a 6-6 record. How would you rate that part of the season?

In my opinion, it has been a pretty solid season so far except two games on the road against Estonian Kalev and Rapla. We have completed our first goal to qualify for the playoffs and currently looking forward to beating Nevezis in two games and reach BBL Top 8.

The team looked pretty dominant in the first game against Nevezis on Monday. What was the reason of such success? What are your thoughts before the second game?

Nevezis had game on Sunday in LKL, therefore our main task was to play aggressive offensively and defensively. It was tight first half, but in the second we kept running and got them tired. One of the main reasons was good execution of pick’n’roll offense which Raimonds [Gabrans] and Kaspars [Cipruss] played very well. Finally we had a full roster, Davis [Geks] and Maris [Ziedins] have returned from little injuries and showed up in game confident.

We have a 19-point handicap, but we have to stay focus and fight for the win in a single game. As far as I know, Nevezis has a large crowd of fans thus we have to be ready to play hard.

Did the management or the coaching staff set any specific goals in the BBL this season? How far do you think this team can go yourself?

The initial goal was to reach final 8, but we are looking forward to go even further.

Which teams do you think could be held as the favorites to win the competition?

There are multiple great teams in this league that could win the trophy. Apart from my team, I would like to include BK Ventspils, Pieno Zvaigzdes and Dolphins as the potential winners.

Individually, you have better statistics in the BBL than in the Latvian Basketball League (LBL). What, in your mind, could the reasons be?

One of the main reasons might be the fact that Latvian teams knows me very well and they are more aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I don’t sort games whether it is BBL or LBL, maybe somewhere deep in my mind I had a feeling that BBL tournament is more important because there were just 12 games. In LBL, the season is long and the most important games will be in April and May.

You’re not the tallest and most athletic guy on the court, but at the end of the day – you’re one of the best in the league. What do you see as your strengths as a basketball player?

One of my advantages is my left arm. I think left-handed players are more difficult to guard. Quite often I get advantage with my mid range jumper, when I am fully concentrated I can make a lot of those shots. But I still have to work hard in order to improve my skills and become a better player.

You grew up and spent spent most of you career in Valmiera. What’s special about this city and the team?

It is my hometown where I have my family and friends. I really like the team, coaching staff and management. It all makes me happy to fight for Valmiera.

Do you have any long-term goals set out for yourself, something you would like to accomplish in your basketball career?

First of all, I am looking forward to make the most out of this year with my team. Personally, I have considered trying my skills abroad, but I will focus on that right after the season.