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  • Writer's pictureMāris Noviks

Black and gold: TTT Rīga return to the EWBL

EuroLeague Women quarter-finalist TTT Rīga will return to the European Women`s Basketball league after a one year break.

A two time EWBL champion experienced a roller-coaster like off-season.

Legendary club returned to the big stage in 2006 with a help from Rīga municipality.

Local government joined forces with a public transportation enterprise “Rīgas Satiksme” and formed the foundation (nodibinājums) “TTT Rīga”.

For 15 years, municipality and “Rīgas satiksme” covered 75-80% of TTT budget – with the rest coming from private sponsors.

The founders were looking for a more effective model – in general, to attract more finances from the other sponsors, while decreasing share of the city.

The club suggested to reorganize into society (biedrība) on December 2021 but the real changes took place in September 2022.

The foundation was liquidated, while the new society was founded on September 9, 2021.

TTT lost almost all players in the process and...missed the 2023 EuroLeague Women, recalling application just hours before the draw.

An Italian vice-champion Virtus Bologna received the invitation instead.

The budget shrank three times and the first two contracts were announced on September 29, 2022.

Team gathered for the first practice on September 20 and had only one preparation game.

Despite the struggles, TTT maintained its coaching staff – Mārtiņš Gulbis, Andris Steļmahs and Ivars Ikstens.

Gulbis won the Latvian championship with VEF Rīga men`s team in 2011, while playing for Lithuanian coach Ramūnas Butautas.

Injuries ended his playing career but Gulbis never gave up.

He became the youngest coach in the Latvian basketball league history and won the second division title with legendary BK Barons – a FIBA EuroChallenge champion (2008).

Gulbis conquered the LBL bronze medal with Barons in 2017 after a 3-1 success against the former champion Valmiera Ordo.

A year later, he repeated a bronze medal run with Jūrmala/Fēnikss, destroying BK Ogre in the best-of-five series 3-0.

Jūrmala/Fēnikss folded due to financial woes and Gulbis took the TTT Rīga coaching reins on July 22, 2020.

He is the tenth coach of TTT in the All Star lineup, including Oļģerts Altbergs (1958-1963) and Raimonds Karnītis (1963-1986).

Gulbis experienced all imaginable problems during his first 27 months with the legendary club.

The borders were closed due to pandemic restrictions and the Women`s Baltic Basketball league was suspended for the 2020-2021 season.

The EuroLeague Women regular season was shortened from 14 games to six – with games organized in the so-called bubbles in Spain and Italy.

There were NOWHERE to play – with a 40 day break midway the season.

The players spent parts of the season in self-isolation.

Gulbis had surgery and coached the team via Zoom during the second EuroLeague Women bubble in Schio, Italy.

Latvian Women`s basketball league shortened the playoffs to single elimination games.

The next season offered more struggles – more restrictions followed.

Despite all of this, TTT managed to build a competitive squad and won three road games in the EuroLeague Women – at Venice, Szekszard and Moscow.

Latvian champions won six games in total and secured the fifth place in Group A, punching a ticket to the EuroCup Women quarter-final.

Eight hours later, Russia started the full scale invasion of Ukraine.

On March 2, 2022 FIBA disqualified the Russian clubs and re-seeded the play-off pairs in the EuroLeague Women.

TTT entered the EuroLeague Women playoffs for the second time in modern era (2019, 2022).

Rīga team lost the best-of-three series against Fenerbahce Istanbul.

TTT jumped from #15 to #8 in the EuroLeague Women power rankings and secured the regular season berth for the 2022-2023 season.

Unfortunately, it did not happened.

TTT formed a new team with players from its farm club – mostly 16-18 year old girls.

Seven of them played their first or second game for TTT Rīga on Sunday, October 16, at the Jeep Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania.

TTT suffered a 60-89 loss against Kibirkštis Vilnius but the young players stepped up in a big way.

Estere Petrus scored 21 points in her debut, while Tīna Grausa added 16 points.

Gunta Baško played her 194th game for the Black and Gold.

Four professional players were added to the roster on October 18 – Kate Vilka (Krēsliņa), Marta Miščenko, Katrīna Trankale and Dominyka Paliulytė.

TTT will rise again.


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