Latvian women's basketball team enjoys stop at Tech on U.S. tour|
By Matthew Memberg
Really excited about this story
November 13, 1998
On Tuesday, November 3, the Georgia Tech women's basketball team hosted the Riga TTT women's basketball team in a scrimmage game at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Lady Jackets came back from 17 points down in the second period, but TTT pulled away at the end and defeated Tech 96-91.
Though billed as a simple scrimmage game, the event provided Tech fans with a rare opportunity to watch one of the world's most successful basketball teams of all time. Though unbeknownst to American basketball fans, Riga TTT is a househould name throughout Europe. The amateur women's basketball club is based in Riga, the capital of Latvia, and is sponsored by the city's mass transit system.
Since being organized in the late '50s, TTT has compiled a championship repertoire that even the Boston Celtics would be jealous of. Over the years, the team has won the prestigious European Cup 18 times and swept to the championship of the former Soviet Union 22 times. TTT's most outstanding player during its dynasty years, 7'-1\" Uljana Semionova, has been considered as one of the top women players of all time. In May of 1993, the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, gave Semionova the distinct honor of being the first foreign woman player to be inducted to the shrine.
This year's TTT squad is comprised of players from both Latvia and neighboring Lithuania. The average age of the team is 19 years old, but there are several young stars in the lineup. Point guard Anita Mikale, who scored 22 points against Tech, is only 17.
The Latvian coach Juris Garkalns and his Lithuanian counterpart, Rimantas Daunys, brought their team to the United States for a two-week tour throughout the southeast. Though they enjoyed the time in America, the coaches kept the team focused on preparing for the next round of the Baltic Championships, which are being held next month in Estonia.
TTT arrived in Atlanta on Saturday, October 31, and got a chance to see some of the Olympic sites the next day. Monday, November 2, TTT played the first of nine games on the tour at Georgia State. Still jet-lagged and tired from the long journey from Riga, the team lost badly to the Panthers. The players were much more comfortable with their surroundings when they played Georgia Tech the following night; hence, the 96-91 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
The victory was a payback of sorts for Latvian Zane Kackane, who attended high school for a year in New York at the Long Island Lutheran High School. Her team was eliminated from the state playoffs by Riverdale Country High School out of the Bronx. Riverdale Country's star player, Niesha Butler, is now a guard on the Georgia Tech team.
The remainder of TTT's schedule included games against three top ten NCAA teams: Georgia, Duke, and North Carolina. After competing against such tough opponents, the players ought to be well-prepared for their upcoming tournament.
The tour was organized by Latvian native, Atlanta resident, and Georgia Tech alum Uldis Palde (CE '62). Palde, a fervent supporter of Tech basketball, was all smiles at last week's Tech-TTT scrimmage.
"This culminated something I had been anticipating and hoping for several years," said Palde. "It was a very satisfying and enjoyable experience [to watch TTT] play my alma mater at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The hospitality exhibited by [head women's coach] Agnus [Berenato] and her entire team was very gratifying."
Georgia Tech was just as happy to host TTT as TTT was to play here.
"[TTT] is the kind of team that we want to play from a basketball standpoint," commented assistant coach Candy Cage. "From a cultural standpoint, our kids have been introduced to a country that they would never have been exposed to."
TTT played their last game of the tour against East Carolina last night and returned to Atlanta today. The weary players and coaches will head back to Riga tomorrow. Hopefully, it won't be too long until they are able to return to Tech.