Kristers Zeidaks took no time to pick up his first individual award of the season, as the Tyco Rapla forward was named the Most Valuable Player for the month of October.
The 24-year-old Latvian was mostly responsible for his team’s wondrous start of the season, as Rapla managed to hit it off with a 3-1 start during the initial month, while he achieved three double-doubles and averaged 18 points and 10.8 rebounds. Zeidaks summed to an average of 26.3 ranking points per game, all while shooting an outrageous 71.4% from two-point range.
BBL.net spoke to Kristars about what this award means to him, his journeyman career, where he envisions himself in the future and the amazing support of Rapla fans.
First of all, congratulations on the October MVP honors! Do these kind of awards have any special meaning to you?
Thank you very much! You know, these kind of awards just show you that you are on the right path and that you are doing something right. These are basically like little awards for hard work. And at the same time they give you motivation to fight even harder and accomplish even more.
You showed stellar individual numbers, won the MVP award, while Tyco Rapla showcased some solid basketball, taking three victories and losing just once. Apparently, your team has performed much better this season compared to last year when Rapla had same three victories throughout the whole year and missed the playoffs. Has the management or the coaching staff set any specific goals this season? How far do you think this team can go yourself?
Well, we have a great coach and a team full of fighters that will always put the team’s interests before their own, a group of very unselfish and friendly players that will go out and fight as hard as they can. These kind of teams are always very dangerous for any opponent. However, I don’t want to project anything, but one thing is certain – we will give it our all this season.
After three great wins, Rapla suffered a blow-out against Juventus, followed by nail-biting loss against Liepaja/Triobet. Which of these losses hurt more – the one by a big margin or the one that went down to the wire? What can the team make of either of these games and where is the biggest need of improvements.
For me personally the loss against Liepaja hurt more, mostly because they are from my home country Latvia and it’s always a bit personal. In both of these games we had some injury issues but we showed that despite that, we can fight for a victory against any team in the BBL this year.
Let’s talk a bit more about you. During your young career you’ve played in a lot of different countries, ranging from Italy, Spain to the United States and back here in the Baltics. Which part of your career have you enjoyed most?
The hardest year in my life was in Spain, but I am absolutely thankful for that experience. The most exciting year was in America where I had the chance to practice together with 4 top-class players who went on to the NBA a year later. We had an awesome coaching staff and a strength coach who definitely taught me a lot.
You’re amongst the five best rebounders in the league and you’re not too far away from the top in scoring. What do you consider to be the strongest part of your game? Is there any specific element you know you need to improve and what do you focus on during practices?
I think that my strongest side is my aggressiveness on both ends of the court, but due to injuries I have lost some technique and confidence which is coming back gradually and slowly. I focus on everything – there are just so many things in basketball you need to improve and you can never grow tired of it. That is one of the reasons why I love this game.
Where do you see, or at least hope to see, yourself and your career in five years?
I don’t want to be too loud, so I will keep my dreams to myself, but I definitely envision myself playing basketball and having a great career. Hopefully, I’ll have a family of my own in five years.
And last but not least, would you like to pass on anything to the Rapla fans?
So far in my basketball career I have never seen a better home crowd than the one we have here in Rapla, it is awesome to play here and the fans give you so much extra energy! You can tell and feel that they are really enjoying it and rooting for you, it gives you that boost at the end – you don’t want to let them down and it makes you want to win every game even more.
TALLINN – The Estonian derby between TTU and Valga Maks ja Moorits was decided only in the final quarter, as TTU celebrated a 80-67 (20-15; 15-24; 22-17; 23-11) home victory on Friday evening.
The game kicked off slowly, as both teams struggled to find a basket – nearly halfway through the quarter the score was tied at six. A 7-0 run at the end pushed TTU ahead and allowed the home side to finish the quarter in front by five.
The visitors came fighting back in the second quarter and after a 12-2 run, were already ahead. Maks ja Moorits stayed ahead for the rest of the quarter and entered halftime with a 39-35 advantage.
The two sides went back and forth in the third quarter but Joonas Jarvelainen’s juicy dunk put TTU back ahead in the final minute.
TTU took care of business early on in the fourth quarter, as they opened up the last quarter with a 14-0 run. The game was all settled, as Valga Maks ja Moorits’ runs were all rebuffed and the home side celebrated an 80-67 victory.
For the winning side, Kiur Akenparg was the leading scorer, as he tallied 23 points. Joonas Jarvelainen chipped in with 22 points and 7 rebounds, while Andrew Arnold and Kristjan Makke ended the game with respectively 11 and 10 points.
Jurijs Aleksejevs scored 26 points and collected 8 rebounds for Valga. Viljar Veski was the only other player in double digits with 11 points.
TAMPERE – Kalev/Cramo left Finland unscathed, as they pulled out a tough 87-81 (24-18; 22-17; 14-27; 27-19) victory after a tiring duel against Pyrinto on Thursday evening.
The Estonian club now sits atop of Group A with four victories and no losses. Pyrinto, on the other hand, have a split record of two wins and losses each.
Early on, it was Kalev/Cramo in front, as they used an 8-0 run to pull ahead. The visitors kept hold of a lead of some sort for the rest of the quarter. With 10 minutes played, Kalev/Cramo led the way by six.
The margin kept growing and had already reached 15 points midway through the second quarter.
The Finns came out focused after the break and proved they can put up a real fight. They erased the double-digit lead in half of a quarter and were once again level. A last-second tap-in by Damon Williams allowed Pyrinto to gain a two-point lead before the final ten minutes.
The duo of Williams and Will Harris pushed Pyrinto’s advantage to five and they seemed in a good position to fight for victory. However, an 8-1 run helped Kalev/Cramo reestablished their lead. For the next five minutes, the teams went neck to neck, but the Tallinn side was just too clutch.
They knocked down two consecutive three-pointers in the final minute, which pushed them to the leading role and gave a 4 point lead with 11 seconds to go. Pyrinto could not answer with a bucket of their own and fouls were the only chance of staying alive.
Rolands Freimanis and EJ Singler led the way for Kalev/Cramo with 15 points apiece, while the latter also devoured 12 rebounds. Reinar Hallik chipped in with 15, while Scott Machado and Mindaugas Kupsas were responsible for respectively 13 and 11 points.
Will Harris topped the game in scoring with 20 points to his name, while Antero Lehto added 19 to the tally. Alex Vaenerberg ended the game with 13, while Damon Williams was his usual self with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
JEKABPILS – A strong closing quarter assured an 87-71 (21-26; 26-18; 19-15; 21-12) victory for Jekabpils, who had trouble fighting off TTU’s resistance in the Group B clash.
Jekabpils are rolling strong and have now taken hold of a 3-1 record. Meanwhile, TTU have lost two straight and stand a 1-2.
The start of the game was high-paced, as both teams scored at will. TTU managed to convert on a couple of good looks and midway through the first quarter, were up by six.
The Estonians managed to stay ahead for the remainder of the quarter, but Jekabpils set up a 13-2 run at the beginning of the second bit of the game and pulled ahead 38-32. The visitors could not even the score before the half and TTU went into the locker room with a 3 point deficit.
After a couple three-pointers in the initial minutes of the second half, Jekabpils amassed a 9-point advantage, which was trimmed to 7 before the end of the quarter.
The difference between the two sides floated around ten points for the whole quarter, but Jekabpils used a late 6-0 run to push the lead to 16.
Rinalds Sirsnins led Jekabpils in scoring with 19 and also accounted for 7 assists. Devin Taylor was even more impressive, as he made a statement for the weekly Top Five with his 29-ranking point performance. The American scored 18 points, shooting at an 80% clip and also tore down 9 rebounds. Povilas Cukinas added 12 points and 9 boards, while Pavels Veselovs ended the game with 11 and 6. Martins Kravcenko had 10 points to his name.
For the losing side, Joonas Jarvelainen was once again the leading scorer. The forward scored 18 points and tore down 8 rebounds. Toomas Raadik contributed 16 points, Kiur Akenparg added 15, while Andrew Arnold ended the game with 10.
RAKVERE – Tarvas made sure there was one less unbeaten team in Group C, as they thrashed Liepaja/Triobet at home 89-65 (20-14; 25-14; 22-19; 22-18) on Wednesday evening.
Both Tarvas and Liepaja/Triobet now hold records of two victories and one loss.
The visiting side was the instigator early on and jumped ahead with an early lead. However, the Estonians gradually evened the score and used a 10-0 run to go ahead 20-14 after the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the lead had already blown up to 16. The hosts kept did not let up, kept control of the big advantage and finished the first half leading by 17.
While the Latvians made strides to get back in the game, they could not cut the lead down to single digits. A couple of easy baskets helped Tarvas jump back ahead by an insurmountable 20 points.
Two three-pointers opened the final quarter for Tarvas and it was all said and done – the remaining nine minutes of the game were merely a formality.
Brandis Raley Ross was the top-scorer for the winners, as he tallied 20 points. Mario Paiste contributed 13, while Kaspars Cipruss was once again dominant in the paint – the league’s best rebounder scored 9 points and corralled 13 rebounds. Martin Jurtom and Roberts Stumbris also ended the game with 9 apiece.
Mareks Jurevicus led the game in scoring with 22 points to his name. Lauris Blaus was the only other player in double-digits for the Latvian side, as he scored 14, while Dwayne Johnson added 9 points.
JURMALA – Pieno zvaigzdes jumped ahead early on and did not look back, as they raced past Jurmala/Fenikss, beating the Latvians 75-59 (24-7; 32-21; 17-26; 24-17) in the Group A match-up on Wednesday evening.
Pasvalys kept a clean sheet, as this was their third victory in three games, while Jurmala already face their fourth straight loss of the season.
The Lithuanians started the game going off 11-0, before Alex Oriakhi commited an unsportsman-like foul, allowing Jurmala/Fenikss to finally open their scoring tally five minutes into the game. Pieno zvaigzdes kept increasing their lead and it had already reached 20 at the end of the quarter.
The home side finally found some kind of rhythm, but was still being heavily outscored. Pieno zvaigzdes had double the amount of points after two quarters, as they led 56-28.
Jurmala were way too deep in, as the Lithuanian side already reached a 31-point lead halfway through the third quarter, but a 15-2 run helped make the margin a bit more appropriate. The teams were separated by 19 points heading into the last ten minutes.
The fourth quarter was for the most part competitive, as the two sides exchanged one basket after the other. However, Pasvalys ended the quarter on a higher note and celebrated the 26-point victory.
Benjamin Brust highlighted the scoring table with 18 points to his name. Gytis Sirutavicius added 15 points and 7 rebounds, while Evaldas Kairys chipped in with 13. Aidas Viskontas orchestrated the team’s offense with 12 points and 8 assists, while Augustinas Jankaitis finished with 11 points in 14 minutes of basketball.
Edgars Jeromanovs ked the way with 16 points and 6 assists for the Latvians, while Martins Laksa was responsible for another 15 points. Ervins Jonats ended the game with 9 points to his name.
MOSCOW - Tuesday action in the Baltic Basketball League kicked off with a thrilling match-up in Moscow, where Juventus got the best of the hosts Dynamo Moscow 74-70 (22-23; 20-11; 14-24; 18-12) in the Group C clash.
The victory allowed Juventus to leap into pole position with three victories and no losses. Dynamo, on the other hand, are still empty with a 0-3 record.
While Juventus started the game off on a higher note, jumping ahead by eight points midway through the first quarter, the Russian side arranged a 12-0 run that allowed them to finish the first ten minutes with a one-point lead.
The two sides combined for only 10 points in the first five minutes of the second quarter, before the basket opened up for the visiting side. They needed merely two minutes to put up a 9-0 run and pulled ahead by eight. The scoreboard displayed a 42-34 lead for the Lithuanians entering halftime.
Dynamo came out of the half, firing with all cylinders and in no time the deficit was wiped away. For the remainder of the quarter, the two teams kept going back and forth but neither of them could pull away.
Not much changed in the fourth quarter, as the two sides were still separated by just one point going into the final minute. Vaidas Cepukaitis tapped the ball in after a miss by Simas Buterlevicius and extended Juventus’ lead to three.
Dynamo missed the game-tying opportunity, but Rashaun Broadus was unsuccessful on both of his free-throw attempts and kept the hope alive for the Russians. Buterlevicius responded to Dynamo’s single free-throw conversion with two of his own and the hosts just ran out of time to change the course of the game.
Simas Buterlevicius was the top-scorer for Juventus with 18 points. Rashaun Broadus added 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, but committed 5 turnovers. Saulius Kulvietis and Arvydas Siksnius were also in double-digits in scoring, as they tallied respectively 11 and 10 points. Vaidas Cepukaitis ended the game with 8 points and 9 rebounds to his name.
Denis Zakharov was the go-to guy for the Russian team, as he scored 22 points. Evgeny Karpeko contributed 12, while Alimdzan Fediushin had 11. Vladislav Trushkin finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds.
RAPLA – Tyco Rapla was involved in yet another nail-biter. This time, however, they ended up finishing on the wrong side of the tracks, as the Estonians stumbled against Liepaja/Triobet 72-76 (18-21; 22-20; 18-26; 14-9) on Tuesday evening in Group C.
Liepaja/Triobet now hold 2 victories without a loss, while Rapla's record dropped to 3-2.
Tyco Rapla and Liepaja/Triobet exchanged runs multiple times in the first quarter with the home side tipping the game off with a 7-0 start. However, the lead soon vanished, as Gints and Janis Antrops accounted for 13 points of the 15-0 run by Liepaja. Then again, the hosts scored 11 consecutive points and were once again in front, before Dwayne Johnson scored 5 points to close the quarter and give Liepaja/Triobet a 21-18 advantage.
As soon as the visitors amassed a tangible, 9-point lead, the home side responded with a run and managed to cut the deficit to four before halftime.
For the greater part of the quarter, neither team could catch a break – with just over a minute remaining, the teams were separated by just three points. However, Liepaja closed the quarter with six consecutive free-throws and pushed the margin to 9.
Careless ball-handling by the visitors resulted in six turnovers and Rapla were back in the game, trailing by just four. However, they wasted some grand opportunities at the free-throw line to cut into the lead. While the hosts did close in to three points, Dwayne Johnson put the game away with his free-throw.
Dreadful free-throw shooting could be named as the main reason why the Estonians suffered a loss today, as only 10 of 23 (43%) of their free-throws reached the target.
Rapla have now lost two straight games, but their record is still solid with 3-2. Liepaja/Triobet, on the other hand, have won both of their games and are still perfect with a 2-0 record.
Gints Antrops delivered an impressive performance, as he knocked down 3 three-pointers and totaled 21 points to go alongside his 6 rebounds. Lauris Blaus added 14 points and 9 rebounds, while Dwayne Johnson and Janis Antrops contributed 13 apiece.
For Rapla, Rait-Riivo Laane was the top-scorer, as he had 16 points and 7 assists. However, the guard made good on only two of his nine three-point attempts. October MVP Kristers Zeidaks and Martin Paasoja contributed 12 points each, while Andre Parn ended the game with 9.
PANEVEZYS – Apparently, the coaching change Lietkabelis just dealt with brought immediate results, as the Lithuanian side finally returned to winning ways with an easy 96-85 (26-19; 27-16; 27-23; 16-27) victory against previously unbeaten Valmiera on Tuesday evening.
Lietkabelis now hold a 3-2 record, while their opponents dropped to a 3-1 record.
The Latvian team was the front-runner in the initial minutes, as three straight three-pointers helped them pull away by a couple of baskets. However, a couple of back-to-back turnovers and solid play from Ivan Nelyubov sparked a 9-0 run that turned the tables. The Lithuanians closed the quarter with another small run and enjoyed a 26-19 lead after the first quarter.
Lietkabelis looked motivated and right out of the gates, ran off to build a double-digit lead, mostly as a result of Dainius Salenga’s two consecutive three-pointers. By the end of the quarter, the Lithuanian side had already amassed an 18-point advantage.
Nevertheless, Valmiera were not about to give in and three minutes and three Matiss Rudmiezis’ three-pointers later were only down by 12. However, Dainius Salenga kept it rolling for the team ahead, as he knocked down his fourth and fifth three-pointers to spread the gap to 21.
22 points separated the two teams after three quarters and the game was all but over. An 11-3 run allowed the visitors to shrink the lead slightly but it was not enough to create any sort of drama. Lietkabelis coasted to the finish line and Gintaras Kadziulis celebrated his first victory as the head coach of the team.
Dainius Salenga was on fire from downtown, as he buried 6 three-pointers and led the game with 24 points. Ivan Nelyubov added 19, while Zygimantas Jonusas accounted for 11 points and 9 rebounds. Evaldas Zabas also entered double-digits with 10 points to his name, while Vytenis Cizauskas nearly secured a double-double with 9 points and 10 assists.
For the losing side Marcis Vitols and Karlis Apsitis were the leading scorers with 14 points apiece, while Matiss Rudmiezis and Davis Rozitis ended the game with respectively 12 and 10 points. Maris Ziedins ended the game with 9 in his account.
TALLINN – Baltic Basketball League (BBL) action started early this week, as two Tallinn-based teams, TTU and TLU Kalev matched up in the Group B derby. TLU Kalev, the hosts of this match, came out on top after a dominating fourth quarter that secured them the 72-54 (14-16; 18-15; 15-12; 25-11) victory.
The hosts finally got their first victory this season and snapped a 3-game cold streak. Meanwhile, for TTU, this was the first loss in two matches.
Although TLU Kalev scored the opening points in the game, the first quarter was slightly more successful for their opponents, as they closed the 4-point gap and jumped ahead by a basket themselves. After a neck-to-neck first quarter, the visitors were ahead by two – 12-14.
We witnessed a lot of the same in the second quarter, except that this time it was the home side that finished ahead with a single-point lead.
TLU Kalev finally managed to create a tangible lead after the break, as they went on to a 9-0 run and halfway through the quarter were ahead by eight points. However, by the end of the quarter, TTU had already closed down on them and cut the margin in half.
Everything was put into places in the final quarter, when the home side ran off to another run that finally allowed them to amass their first double-digit lead. With 30 seconds on the clock, 11 points separated the two teams, but seven quick points pushed it to a 72-54 victory.
Throughout the game Thomas Droney was a headache for the opposing coach, as the big man scored 18 points, tore down 15 rebounds and dished out 6 assists. Robertas Grabauskas contributed with 17 points and 8 rebounds, while Reimo Tamm ended the game with 16 points to his name.
For the losing side, Joonas Jarvelainen was the go-to guy, as he picked up team-high 13 points and 11 rebounds. Andrew Arnold and Kristjan Makke ended the game with 10 apiece.