Zagars Makes History with 17 Assists, Leads Latvia to Fifth Place Finish at World Cup

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Zagars Makes History with 17 Assists, Leads Latvia to Fifth Place Finish at World Cup

Latvia routed Lithuania 98-63 in the fifth-place game of the FIBA World Cup. Latvia made its first appearance at the World Cup and finished fifth, while Lithuania finished sixth. Latvia’s guard Zagars had a historic performance with 17 assists, breaking the World Cup single-game assist record (previously held by Toni Kukoc with 15 assists in 1994).

Zagars had a rough shooting night, going 0-of-7 from the field and 4-of-6 from the free throw line, scoring four points, six rebounds, 17 assists, one steal and zero turnovers. Yes, he had zero turnovers with his record-breaking assists. After the game, Zagars said: “I was just passing the ball and my teammates made shots. It’s more meaningful for the team to finish in the top five than for me to break the single-game assist record.”

Zagars played eight games for Latvia at this World Cup, averaging 25.2 minutes, 12.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, two turnovers and shooting percentages of 48.6%, 41.7% and 63.6%. Zagars’ plus-minus rating of +11.5 ranked second on Latvia’s team, behind only Bertans who was injured.

Wearing No. 55 jersey and making all kinds of passes, who does he remind you of? Fans gave him a nickname: European White Chocolate. Zagars was born on April 21, 2000 and is 1.90 meters tall. He is also the shortest player on Latvia’s national team. In the quarterfinals against Germany, Zagars challenged Schroder with his height advantage.

Latvia lost to Germany 79-81 in the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Zagars played 32 minutes, shooting 9-of-17 from the field, 4-of-8 from three-point range and 2-of-2 from the free throw line, scoring 24 points, two rebounds, eight assists and two turnovers. Schroder played 30 minutes, shooting 4-of-26 from the field, 0-of-8 from three-point range and 1-of-1 from the free throw line, scoring nine points, four assists, two steals and four turnovers.

After playing against Germany, Zagars told reporters next to him: “Schroder was my childhood idol.” Schroder replied: “Zagars is a very special player.” They also have another connection: In January 2022, Zagars briefly joined German club Löwen Braunschweig, whose owner is Schroder.

Who would believe it? Zagars who dominated at this World Cup is still a free agent without a contract. He also doesn’t get paid by the national team. European players usually only get $300 per day as allowance. That means Zagars earned just over $4,000 during the World Cup. His value skyrocketed after the World Cup.

At the 2018 European U18 Championship, Zagars averaged 18.9 points, 6.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game, leading Latvia to second place. At the 2019 NBA draft, Zagars went undrafted. He then moved around various basketball leagues in Europe. In the 2022-23 season, he averaged 15.4 points, 3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game in the Lithuanian league.

European reporter Donatas Urbonas reported that several European teams came to the World Cup to scout Zagars, including Spanish club Baskonia and Lithuanian club BC Wolves, as well as two German clubs. Some NBA teams also expressed interest in Zagars, but he is more likely to return to Europe to play.

We look forward to the day when Zagars officially signs a contract. Go for it, young man!

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