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  • Writer's pictureMāris Noviks

Aiming for the stars: welcome Rīga Stradiņš University

Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) is the third team from Latvia, which will play in the European Women`s basketball league.

RSU is a state funded university named after a professor, physician and surgeon Pauls Stradiņš (1896-1958).

In 1931, he was appointed medical director of the 2nd City Hospital of Rīga – now Pauls Stradiņš Clinical University Hospital.

He was one of the most recognized doctors in Latvia and became the first Rockefeller Fellow from Latvia (1924).

Stradiņš also founded the Museum of the History of Medicine in Riga.

In 1998, the Rīga Medical Institute was reorganized and renamed Rīga Stradiņš University.

RSU women`s basketball team entered the Latvian first division in 2013, when coach Aivars Vīnbergs parted ways with Rīga Technology University (RTU).

Vīnbergs, a five time Latvian champion with RTU/Klondaika and a Latvian Women`s national team head coach from 1996-2003, coached at RSU for eight seasons.

His new team won four bronze medals in the Latvian Championship (2014, 2015, 2017, 2020) and registered another three Top-4 finishes (2016, 2018, 2019).

RSU reached the 2014 Final Four of the Latvia-Estonia league and won the bronze medal in Tallinn.

Team featured players like Guna Lagzdiņa, Kate Krēsliņa (Vilka), Asnate Fomina, Kate Aizsila and Daina Lazdeniece-Auniņa.

Lagzdiņa was the captain of the U20 National team and secured Latvia`s return to the Division A in 2013 at Albena, Bulgaria.

Krēsliņa, Fomina and Aizsila earned the fifth place at the 2014 European U20 Championship in Udine, Italy.

All three received calls from the National team.

Fomina played for the Fordham University in the New York City (2014-2018) and finished her student basketball career at the University of Lethbridge (2018-2020) in western Canada.

Krēsliņa also studied at Fordham (2015-2017) but later returned to Latvia and played for TTT Rīga (2017-2020).

Lagzdiņa stayed at RSU and became a children dentist.

Captain led the team to the Latvian final in 2022 and finished her basketball career on a high note.

Vīnbergs was replaced by Matīss Rožlapa in the summer of 2021 after RSU missed the Latvian semifinals for the first time.

Rožlapa, a graduate of Rīga basketball school, started his coaching career at the age of 20.

He worked for two seasons together with Mārtiņš Gulbis at Barons and Jūrmala, winning two bronze medals at the Latvian men`s top flight (2017, 2018).

The next two seasons Rožlapa was Mārtiņš Zībarts assistant at the EuroLeague Women club TTT Rīga (2018-2020).

TTT reached the Euroleague Women playoffs in 2019 – for the first time since 1985.

Rožlapa also coached the TTT junior team and earned a gold medal in the Latvian second division at the Final Four in Daugavpils in February 2020.

After changes at the club in the summer of 2020, Rožlapa took most of his junior players to the University of Latvia, where he stayed one year as a head coach.

On September 9, 2021, Rožlapa signed a three year contract with Rīga Stradiņš University.

He led RSU to its first Latvian final in 2022.

RSU also played at the Final Four of the Women`s Baltic Basketball league but dropped the bronze medal game against Neptūnas Klaipeda.

Rožlapa is a Latvian Women`s national team assistant coach.

He worked together with head coaches Mārtiņš Zībarts, Mārtiņš Gulbis and Gundars Vētra.

RSU has two women`s basketball teams since 2021.

At least 70% of the players must study in the RSU.

There are 18 RSU students at the university`s women`s basketball program, as of October 2022.

RSU roster features National team players Luīze Šepte (South Florida 2018-2019) and Māra Mote (Arizona 2019-2021).

Mote became the first Latvian player at the NCAA Final Four in 2021, while Šepte was named the Defensive MVP of South Florida in 2019.

Guard Enija Vīksne and center Katrīna Ozola had a busy summer, as they represented Latvia at the 2022 European U20 and U18 championships.

Forward Anita Miķelsone played for the Latvia 3x3 national team.

Dinija Pāvelsone joined the team after a few years with TTT Rīga, while another newcomer – Evelīna Otto – is one of the leaders at the U16 national team.


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