BasketNews sources indicate that Arturs Zagars' standout performance in the World Cup has not only piqued EuroLeague scouts' interest but also drawn the attention of NBA talent evaluators.

Credit: FIBA
Credit FIBA

A Filipino family with two kids joyfully chanted, "Latvia! Latvia!" after Latvia secured a convincing victory over Lithuania to clinch fifth place in the World Cup.

Player of the Game
Arturs  Kurucs
Arturs Kurucs
Points 20
Accuracy 6-10
Rebounds 4
Assists 2

This heartwarming moment beautifully illustrated how Latvia's impressive performance in this World Cup had gained global recognition.

Latvia managed to reach the Top 5 in their first-ever FIBA World Cup.

The young fans at the Mall of Asia Arena should have found inspiration in the remarkable performance of a gifted point guard wearing jersey No. 55.

With 17 assists against Lithuania, Latvia's playmaker Arturs Zagars surpassed the legendary Toni Kukoc, setting a new World Cup single-game record.

Zagars, 23, made it look easy and simple.

"I was just passing the ball, and my teammates made shots. It's that simple," he said without hesitation.

His swag and play as a distributor and a scorer helped Latvia secure big victories over powerhouses such as France (Olympic and EuroBasket silver medalists), Spain (the former World Cup champions and current EuroBasket titleholders), and Brazil.

Zagars has been impressive, averaging 12.4 points (55.6% 2P, 41.7% 3P). He also contributed 2.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game, all in just 25 minutes of playtime, delivering several remarkable performances.

In an early World Cup game against France, he scored 22 points and dished out five assists, setting the tone for Latvia's upset victory. In a do-or-die matchup against Brazil, he contributed 17 points to secure a crucial win.

His 24-point performance nearly pushed Latvia to victory against the World Cup finalists, Germany, and completely overshadowed Dennis Schroder's star.

This historic campaign reached its pinnacle as Zagars set a new World Cup single-game assists record, a significant factor in Latvia's impressive 98-63 victory over Lithuania, capping off their remarkable journey.

Arturs Zagars

Arturs  Zagars
Position: PG
Age: 23
Height: 190 cm
Weight: 78 kg
Birth place: Jurmala , Latvia

"I believe he played a solid tournament with big responsibilities. He was in big shoes. As for the first time in the World Cup, and first time as a starter in the senior national team in such a competition, replacing an iconic player like Janis Strelnieks is not easy," Latvia head coach Luca Banchi recalled Zagars' performance.

"In the second game, we lost our captain, but he continued to produce good basketball to help the team stay at this level, proving he can help Latvia to compete with the best teams on the planet," he added.

The last statement made everyone laugh in the press conference.

"But it's just the first step. The next is to find a job for this guy because I believe he deserves it. He's not like me, he's young. I'm old, and I have to rest. He's young and needs to play. Let's hope he'll find the job finally," Banchi made the headlines.

Finding a new team should be a relatively simple task for his agent at this point.

Even before Arturs Zagars gained widespread recognition in this World Cup, BC Wolves Vilnius, a Lithuanian team, had expressed a strong interest in him.

However, with the growing interest from potential suitors, Zagars is now considering a wider range of markets.

According to BasketNews sources, several solid EuroLeague teams, and even some NBA clubs, have been diligently gathering information about this World Cup standout in recent days.

It's not clear whether this interest will translate into a concrete opportunity, but it's getting more and more clear that a big contract is somewhere around the corner.

Is he ready for the EuroLeague?

"I would say he can play in the EuroLeague. He proved here that he can play and is a high-level player," Rolands Smits, one of the best EuroLeague bigs that can play multiple positions, responded to BasketNews.

"He proved he can be a leader. He made good shots for all teammates and scored by himself easily," Zalgiris' big man shared the biggest improvement in his game.

"He has always been a talented player since junior national teams. Whenever he joined us in the senior national team, in practices, we could see he did some things naturally that some other guys could not do. Unfortunately, he had those injuries in the past but had a good season in Lithuania. You could see that in every game, especially on the big stage, the better he played in these big games, the more confidence he was gaining and the better he kept playing on," the Latvian top scorer Davis Bertans told BasketNews.

Could Zagars be a two-way contract material for the NBA teams?

"Honestly, yes," Bertans responded to BasketNews in a second when asked if he sees NBA potential in Zagars' game.

"I think it's a fair shot. It's all about timing, chance, and opportunity. Everything can happen if you end up at the right place at the right time. He has all the tools to do it," the Oklahoma City Thunder forward continued.

"He's relentless, as you can see. They're putting their best defender on him every single night, and he still delivers for us," Bertans recalled.

Arturs Zagars' journey should serve as an inspiration not only to young Filipino basketball fans but also to players entering major FIBA competitions.

Even coach Banchi openly admitted that he had questions about whether Zagars was prepared to take on the leadership role for this team on the biggest international stage.

"In the last two years, Arturs unfortunately suffered from many injuries. He already impressed everyone in the last FIBA window in February but suffered an injury in the third quarter that cost him the most of a season finale in Lithuania," Banchi recalled a dark moment for Zagars.

"When he returned after a long rehabilitation, he had the same kind of injury. It even made me a little bit worried about not being sure if he can be able to participate in the World Cup," Banchi revealed.

"Only in the training camp I understood that his body was responding well. Before, there were question marks, but the guy worked seriously during the summer and probably achieved so much that he couldn't even predict himself. But he did a good job," Banchi praised Zagars.

"His role is not simple. You have to be the boss on the court. You have to run such talented and experienced teammates," he added.

Coach Banchi acknowledged the contributions of Nevezis-Optibet Kedainiai, the Lithuanian team Arturs Zagars played for during the 2022-23 season. Zagars had an impressive season with them, maintaining solid averages of 15.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game.

"I want to give proper credit to his organization. Jonas Maciulis was the first who took him. He trusted my word and judgment about the kid," Banchi smiled.

Former EuroLeague champion and currently the GM of Nevezis, Maciulis, previously played for Banchi in Montepaschi Siena and AEK Athens.

Credit FIBA

"Jonas had a special feeling about Zagars. Very soon, he realized what this guy deserved and was super happy. We almost constantly shared weekly reports about his ups and downs, which is normal for a young point guard. But they did a lot to improve this guy. I found Arturs improved a lot as a player and a person. He was more mature, consistent, and conscious. I want to give a lot of credit to the organization of Nevezis," Banchi recalled.

"Unfortunately, I don't have material for them now, but they did a great job with Arturs. For him, now it's time to continue," Banchi smiled.

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Field goals

Best players

Arturs  Kurucs
20 PTS
6/10 FG
2/2 FT
Rokas  Jokubaitis
16 PTS
6/15 FG
3/5 FT
Few players
Tadas  Sedekerskis
10 REB
Arturs  Zagars
17 As
0 TO
26 MIN
Ignas  Brazdeikis
3 As
0 TO
16 MIN
Arturs  Kurucs
23 EFF
- 2P%
60% 3P%
Jonas  Valančiūnas
20 EFF
86% 2P%
0% 3P%