If something is not right for Rodions Kurucs during a game, he will often look up to the stands. And with just a hand gesture by Vladimirs Kiselovs, everything will be alright again for the versatile VEF Riga star. Kiselovs is Kurucs’s grandfather, and his coach since he was 5 years old.
“My grandfather is a great person. He taught me everything I know about basketball. I’m very thankful for him because he put a lot of hard work into me. And I’m happy for that and appreciate that,” Kurucs said. “He is at our games and if I forget something, I look to him in the stands and he shows me how to do it with just a hand motion or something.”
Though grandpa Kiselovs is not in Madrid for the ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT, Kurucs definitely bounced back from a subpar first game for VEF against INSEP for an outstanding showing against Stellazzurra Basketball Academy Rome in the second game. After collecting 8 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in a loss to INSEP, the 17-year-old had 23 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 steals and 3 blocks to lead VEF to a 61-92 victory over Stellazzurra. And he led his team with 16 points in their last game of the tourney against finalist Real Madrid.
That is a lot closer to what fans saw from him at the Kaunas ANGT qualifier, where he was selected to the All-Tournament Team. The 2.04-meter forward fancies his game after that of Team USA star and Olympic gold medalist Kevin Durant. “I like his moves. I try to play like him and copy his moves,” said Kurucs.
The VEF Riga player has talent scouts visioning his versatile skill set at a higher level, but Kurucs said he is trying to avoid hearing any of such talk: “I don’t think about it that much. I just do my work.”
Kurucs is also busy watching and marveling at his younger brother Arturs Kurucs, who is 15 years old and plays in Riga. “I think he’s a very good player. He has better legs, plays better defense and he jumps better than me. He’s a really good player. He can really do everything. He’s a point guard or shooting guard and number three, really versatile,” Rodions said of his younger brother.
The fact that VEF Riga is in Madrid for its debut in the ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Finals means a lot to Kurucs, his team and Latvian basketball. “It’s very cool. All the guys are happy, and emotionally stronger. They want to fight for every ball.”
Kurucs does too. But if he ever loses his way for a moment, he knows that he can always look up to the stands if he needs a brief correction from his grandfather.