Ronalds Elksnis is a 24 year old 203cm forward from Latvia that is playing his first season in Germany with the Dragons Rhondorf. Last season he helped BK Jelgava/BJSS (LBL2) win the Latvian division two title playing 34 games averaging 11.7ppg, 6.4rpg, 2.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP-3(63.2%), 3PT: 45.0%, FT: 82.0%. The season before he played with Gulbenes Buki BJSS Riga (Latvia-LBL2) playing 23 games averaging 12.8ppg, Reb-5(10.0rpg), 3.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 50.2%, 3PT: 21.7%, FT: 61.6%. He spent some years in the states at La Jolla Prep (Calif.) and played a year at Clark St. CC (JUCO) and John Brown (NAIA). Currently with the Dragons Rhondorf, he is averaging 3,3ppg and 1,9rpg. He spoke to German Hoops at the end of the summer about basketball.
Ronalds thanks for talking to German Hoops. You are starting a new adventure in Germany this season. What will you miss most from your native country the abundance in snow or the food Rupimaize?
Thank you for reaching out me! I am not going to miss snow thats for sure! For me, its not the first I am away from home forav long time period. But I will definitely miss my family, girlfriend, close friends and my dog LeBron.
Welcome to Germany. You won the Latvian second league title last season with BK Jelgava/BJSS (LBL2). Was there never any thought about going into the first division and play against better competition and top teams like VEF Riga or Ventspils?
Yeah it was a thought and opportunity. In the same time, I wanted to go play pro ball outside the Latvia. I believe I made the right choice, because it will help me now and further in career.
What do you know in general about the country and Germany? How much of a basketball presence does Germany have in Latvia?
I have been a couple times in Germany already. So I know the language very well, and the country doesn’t feel so strange for me. I think there are not so many player German players in Latvia. But everyone know that German basketball system is one of the most developed in Europe.
You have joined the Dragons Rhondorf that are a very ambitious organization that played in the Pro A two seasons ago and underachieved last season. What sold you best about coming to this club?
The organization and team have huge goals, and I want to help them to succeed. They see me as a great fit in the team. I believe this place will help me to develop and improve my game better and get to the next level. Dragons Rhondorf have corporation with Telekom Basket Bonn, which is a great opportunity to showcase what you are capable to do to a higher level team.
What has been your early impression of head coach Thomas Adelt? He is in a similar position as you in that he also wants to prove himself at the next level.
He is very confident and settled as coach. Coach Thomas really wants to build that trust between player and coach, which helps a lot mentally for me. Off the court he is a great person, because we can talk about everything not only basketball. I can see a lot of potential in him as becoming a great coach.
How has he helped you most in the early going in helping you get adjusted to the German level? How has your game profited from him so far?
Coach wants me to play my game, and he trusts that I can make a huge impact at this level. In the early going I am just adjusting to the team, and speed of the game. I can bring that champion mentality in this team culture and help other teammates, which is very important.
The Dragons Rhondorf are very high on your skills and like your versatility. Would you consider yourself a modern day forward?
Probably yes, as a modern day forward. This summer I worked really hard on my game and my weaknesses. I can see myself as all-around player
You have a nice inside out game, but what other strengths do you have in your arsenal?
I believe I can bring a lot to the table, since I worked on my game this summer a lot. So I will let my game do all the talking.
You lived in the States in California and got your does of NBA when you lived there. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would you pick?
My comparison would be Danilo Galinari or Kevin Love. They are more like all- around PF, that can shoot the ball and do other stuff and are great offensively and defensively.
You are a player that can fill up the stat sheet, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
I make my teammates better around me. By communicating and talking on the court, help them use their strengths, always put confidence so they be efficient. At the same time, I must be efficient, which is one of the other things that doesn’t get noticed right away.
What kind of experience was it playing with two sets of brothers with the Krumins and Justovics? What did you learn about brotherly love that you had never known about before?
First of all, I have brothers too, and I know a lot about brotherly love. Second, both Krumins are not related. But that aside, I learned many things from these experienced players. They helped me grow mentally, and show the passion what it takes to win games and even a championship. It was a great experience to play in such a team and players.
Two seasons ago you played with Gulbenes Buki BJSS Riga (Latvia-LBL2): 23 games: 12.8ppg, Reb-5(10.0rpg), 3.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 50.2%, 3PT: 21.7%, FT: 61.6% and last season with BK Jelgava/BJSS (LBL2): 34 games: 11.7ppg, 6.4rpg, 2.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP-3(63.2%), 3PT: 45.0%, FT: 82.0%. How do you feel has your game developed further since coming back to Europe from the States?
It has developed a lot since coming back from States. Just in these two years I feel way more better than before. It feels good to focus on basketball, and have people around me, who really support me. I got my confidence back, which was really damaged when I played back in States. I am really happy how everything is moving forward and in the good way. Can’t wait to develop my game even more.
You spent time in the States at La Jolla Prep (Calif) as well as Clark St. CC (JUCO)
and John Brown (NAIA). How was this whole experience in the United States for you? What were the positives and did you have any negatives?
It was a definitely a huge life lesson for me. To be honest, overall it was the most negative experience. Of course, there were positive things like seeing how life is overseas, met new people, education, played with and against great players, saw many beautiful places and so on. but the whole experience, If I had a chance to go back in time and do this again, than I would say no.
How do you feel was the time in the States positive for your game and how did this time benefit your game that you wouldn´t have gotten had you stayed in Europe?
States basketball is more physical and athletic than European. During the time in college I learned how important is to have success as a team, and that it is not everything about me. I definitely learned how to play a more physical game. I learned how important is the communication on the court.
You didn´t get much of a chance at John Brown (NAIA) playing 19 games averaging 3.9ppg, 3.6rpg. Was one of your nicest memories when you scored eight points and hauled down nine rebounds in the win against Avila?
The whole season was pretty hard for me. I battled most of the season with two injuries. So its hard to say if I had any nice memories.
How did head coach Jason Beschta help your game at John Brown in the year that you were there? Did you incorporate any American basketball know how in your year there?
I believe he could helped me a lot more, but the year was not great for my health. So it was very difficult to make any progress in that situation, when you battle injuries and try to get healthy.
How did you profit from talented Austrian national player Maximilain Hofgartner at John Brown? How much did you push each other in practice and do you follow his career now?
He is good player with a lot of potential and talent. I believe we were two players that spent most of the time in gym/weight room. He has a great work ethics, and that´s why I saw him a lot to work in the gym, so it kind of pushed me to work even harder. I know that it is his third season in Spain. I believe, he is doing pretty good there, since he will start his third season in Spain. I wish the best for him, and I know he is capable to be a great player in the future.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Maximilian Hopgartner?
Good question. It was going both ways. He was really good competition.
Did you have any funny experience concerning your name? I can imagine kids called you more Ronald than Ronalds simply because I can imagine American kids not being able to master the Ronalds on a regular basis.
That is so true. Well Ronald is familiar name to people in the States, because of the former president of USA Ronald Reagan. So I told everybody that you can call me Ron, which is way more easier. In college I got my favorite nick name The Latvian Lion, thanks to Coach Rob. So I will use that one a lot, but usually people call me Ron.
Did it seem like you lived in paradise at times in La Jolla California not far from San Diego? What was your most memorable experience off the court that you will never forget?
Oh man that place is just beautiful. Cali is one of the most amazing places I ever have been. Like the weather is perfect all year long, the beaches, people of different cultures, just a positive place. It seems like a paradise, not going to lie.
Who was the toughest player you battled in the states in high school or college time that is in the NBA or in Europe now?
From talent perspective and who has gone the furthest in career: Anthony Davis. There are other great names I played against like Doug McDermmot, Steven Adams, former first pick Anthony Bennet, and Latvian player Davis Bertans, and others
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
My own NBA Rushmore would be: LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Micheal Jordan.
Lebron James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?
In my opinion, he is close to Jordan, like very close. I am LeBrons fan since high school to be honest. People just dont appreciate his greatness. There won´t be other player like him, that can attractspeople with his greatness. What things he does on the court are just unreal. I believe he will be all time greatest basketball player, but that´s just my opinion.
There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
I will put in this ways. Its great that he brokethe record and won MVP. There is no question that he is one of the best players in the leauge. In my opinion, I would rather win Finals or Finals MVP, because I am more focused on team success and not individual awards.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
I think this years draft was not that great. I see that Jayson Tatum could make a major impact already in the league. I was impressed with Dennis Smith JR performance during summer league, he can play huge role in Dallas. Latvian player Anzejs Pasecniks got drafted this year to Magic, so he can get a chance.
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?
Well I am not a fan of James Harden´s game. I think Houston is not the right place for CP3. I believe they won´t make a serious run at the title. I don´t see CP3 and Harden cooperate that great on the court, but we will see.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Spider man: Homecoming. I am Marvel fan!
Thanks Ronalds for the chat