FIBA World Cup

Looking for job: Free agent Arturs Zagars puts teams on notice with historic FIBA World Cup game

Delfin Dioquino

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Looking for job: Free agent Arturs Zagars puts teams on notice with historic FIBA World Cup game

VICTORY. Latvia's Arturs Zagars celebrates after winning against Lithuania in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

Eloisa Lopez/REUTERS

Arturs Zagars shatters the FIBA World Cup assist record as he guides debutant Latvia to fifth place

MANILA, Philippines – Arturs Zagars’ phone must be ringing off the hook.

Zagars can expect job offers to come in bunches after a historic FIBA World Cup performance that saw him guide Latvia to fifth place, starring in a 98-63 whipping of Lithuania at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, September 9.

A free agent, the steady point guard put professional teams on notice after dishing out a World Cup record 17 assists in their 35-point dismantling of the world No. 8 Lithuanians.

Zagars, who also did not commit a single turnover, shattered the previous mark of 15 assists set by Toni Kukoc of Croatia (1994) and Carlik Jones of South Sudan (2023) since FIBA started collecting assists data in 1994.

“He [proved that he] can help team Latvia compete with the best teams in the planet,” said Latvia head coach Luca Banchi of Zagars. “The next [step] is to find a job for this guy because he deserves it.”

“This guy is young and he needs to play. So let us hope that he will find a job.”

Only 23 years old, Zagars last played for BC Nevezis in the Lithuanian Basketball League.

Multiple injuries in the past derailed Zagars’ young career, but he proved he can go toe to toe with the best players in the world as Latvia emerged as the only team out of the four World Cup debutants to reach the final phase.

Zagars finished the tournament with averages of 12.4 points, 7.4 assists, and 2.6 rebounds – with his 59 assist total ranking the highest among all World Cup players in this edition.

But the 6-foot-3 playmaker does not seem to care about his numbers or his milestone.

“Maybe I was just a bit lucky today because every time I pass the ball, they made the shot. Nothing much else to add,” said Zagars.

“It means more that we finished top five than the record.”

Banchi can only hope that it is just the start of something good for Zagars.

“I wish that Arturs will stay healthy and focused and so enthusiastic to run the team of his country,” said Banchi. –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.