The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Quarter-Finals brought together an intriguing matchup between Arturs Zagars and Dennis Schroder. What transpired on the court was not just a basketball game but a story fit for a Hollywood screenplay.
In a setting of grandeur, Latvia, making its World Cup debut, stunned basketball powerhouses France and Spain to secure a place among the top eight teams in the world. Facing them was a formidable German team, considered by many as title contenders, with Latvia seen as the underdog. However, Zagars, the 23-year-old Latvian, proved that the moment was not too big for him.
Zagars put on a dazzling display, scoring 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including four three-pointers. He also contributed with 8 assists and 2 rebounds in a thrilling 81-79 loss to Germany. A last-second missed three-pointer by Davis Bertans denied Latvia a historic victory, but Zagars left an indelible mark.
“We were one shot away from making even bigger history than we already made,” Zagars reflected, acknowledging the missed opportunity. “I am just happy about being part of this group. A lot of Latvian people are proud of us, I hope. We put the Latvian name on the map.”
Latvia’s NBA star Davis Bertans lauded Zagars, stating, “He’s shown himself well. We trust him. Without him, we wouldn’t even be close to this position where we are.”
Zagars has emerged as one of the biggest surprises of the World Cup, averaging 14.2 points, 6.0 assists, and 2.3 rebounds while shooting an impressive 45 percent from beyond the arc. Notably, he outperformed Germany’s star player, Dennis Schroder, who struggled, making just 4-of-26 shots and scoring 9 points while committing 4 of his team’s 8 turnovers.
The story takes a Hollywood-worthy turn when we consider Zagars’ recent journey. He played for Lithuanian side Nevezis last season and is currently a free agent. Despite the uncertainty, Zagars took a gamble on himself and his abilities, hoping to secure a better contract after the World Cup.
Zagars, a highly regarded European prospect, has battled injuries early in his career. However, his standout performances in Jakarta and the Quarter-Finals have undoubtedly elevated his stock in the basketball world. He’s positioned himself for a more lucrative contract than he might have received before the tournament.
One interesting twist in this narrative involves the German club Basketball, Lowen Braunschweig. Zagars played for them in the 2021-22 season, briefly leaving Spanish club Joventut Badalona on loan. During his time in Germany, Zagars put up solid numbers, averaging 7.3 points and 2.7 assists in 13 games.
Here comes the next intriguing plot twist in this Hollywood blockbuster: Dennis Schroder, the captain of the Braunschweig club, not only had to watch Zagars shine on the world stage but also saw him outplay his former boss.
During an interview with Zagars in the mixed zone, Schroder made a surprise appearance, offering compliments and recognizing Zagars’ stellar performance. “He’s special, he’s special, man. He played on my team!” Schroder exclaimed about his former player.
Surprisingly, Schroder was once Zagar’s role model. “I was 18 at the Treviso NBA camp, and I had a question about who my favorite player was, and I said, Dennis Schroder. I feel like I have come a long way,” Zagars shared. “It means a lot for him (Schroder) to say that. He helped me get out of Joventut and gave me a chance to play, finally getting the rhythm of basketball back and just enjoying basketball again. And here I am now.”
As for how Zagars views Schroder today, he noted, “Now he’s not my favorite player because he’s my competitor. But I still respect him a lot. And it means a lot.”
Attention, Hollywood: This captivating story, full of ups and downs, triumphs and challenges, is just waiting to be brought to the big screen. It’s a tale of perseverance, unexpected twists, and the enduring power of basketball to unite and inspire. Arturs Zagars vs. Dennis Schroder is a showdown for the ages, and the world is watching in awe.