20 Years Ago Uvis Helmanis Played in Bamberg and 20 Years Later Son Kris Continues The Family Legacy In Tuebingen

I was lucky that the first BBL basketball I was introduced to was the exciting 2004 BBL finals series between the Opel Skyliners and GHP Bamberg that Frankfurt won in 5 grueling games and a year later Bamberg would get revenge and also win in 5 games this time in Freak City. There were so many incredible players on both ends of the floor those 2 years as Frankfurt had the Bermuda triangle with Pascal Roller, Chris Williams and Tyrone Ellis and Bamberg had incredible players like Robert Garrett, Stefan Hamann and Jason Sasser. The Smorgasbord of talent just never stopped as Bamberg also had some other guys like top center Chris Ensminger and the versatile Latvian lion Uvis Helmanis. 19 years later, these guys are still involved in German basketball as Ensminger is a coach in the Ulm youth area and Helmanis was head coach of the Basketball Lowen Erfurt. But these names are also still present on the court today. No Chris and Uvis aren’t also moonlighting as players, but their off spring are also present. The Ensminger sons Zach and Jacob have been around a few years as Jakob played in the NCAA this season while Zach has made a sound progression from the Pro B and Orange Academy and plays in the EasyCredit BBL with the red hot Telekom Baskets Bonn this season via the Artland Dragons. But this season the name Ensminger won’t be alone as Kriss Helmanis is also playing in Germany with Pro A team Tigers Tuebingen. Back in the day when Chris and Uvis were battling in the paint area with guys like Mario Kasun and Malik Badiane, Zach was 4 years old and Kriss was only 3 years old. Time really does fly. Obviously pin pointing any memories from the 2005 BBL finals is difficult, but when he hears the name Bamberg he smiles. ‘ I could not tell you any stories but I have a lot of good memories from Germany and Bamberg from when I was little, for example I remember sleeping under the chairs in the stands during almost every home game and hanging out with all of the families of the players there’,remembered Kriss Helmanis (209-PF-2002) 20 years ago Uvis Helmanis began in Bamberg and 20 years later son Kris continues the family legacy in Tuebingen.

Uvis Helmanis and Miles Schmidt-Scheuber in 2018 in Frankfurt

Kriss Helmanis who lists his personal NBA Mount Rushmore with Shaq, Nikola Jokic, Magic Johnson, Kevin Durant was born on April 7, 2002. He began his career with BJBS Riga/DSN/Sporta Bode (LBL2) in his homeland. It was here that he was introduced to basketball and he wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. ‘ I was surrounded by a lot of people who believed in me and my skills, gave me a lot of confidence and let me experiment to get better. The last years in Latvia, playing under coach Raivo Otersons, made me grow both as a player and person, which got me ready to move abroad’, said Kriss Helmanis. Being able to have the opportunity to leave your home land and play in Spain is something many players dream about. It is even more of a treat when you can live in the vicinity of Barcelona and play for the Joventut Badalona U18 team and practice as well with Divina Seguros Joventut Badalona. Being able to soak in so much from great players has to be greater than being a little kid in a candy store. Who knows where he would be today had he not taken this opportunity and not been teammates with legend Ante Tomic. ‘ I wouldn’t be the player I am today without crossing paths with Ante Tomic. Just the way he carries himself on and off the court with such professionalism. My locker room was next to his so I saw it up close. He really is a magician on the court and there isn’t neccessarily any advice, but practicing with him and being in the same locker room was an amazing experience’, warned Kriss Helmanis. He then got a double license to play with ACB team Divina Seguros Joventut Badalona and their farm team CB Prat Juventud (Spain-LEB Silver). In the last 3 seasons he played a total of 73 games. In 20-21 he helped them move up to the Leb Gold. Last season he averaged 7.5ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 59.1%, 3PT: 30.9%, FT: 65.7%. Unfortunately in these 3 years he played only 1 ACB game and 2 Eurocup games, but he witnessed a lot different playing styles and also saw how the physicality really worked. He saw a steady development in Spain and was a totally different player when he left in 2022 than when he arrived in 2018. ‘ I think I saw the most improvement in the mental/psychological aspect of the game. I went through a lot of difficulties throughout the years which made me stronger on and off the court. Before coming to Spain I didn’t really see a prototype player in front of me so I didn’t know who I wanted to model my game after entirely (Nikola Jokic obviously was already at the top of the list), but coming to Spain, seeing Marko Todorovic play in my first year, and later on practicing with Ante Tomic. Not a lot of players are that lucky to have all these amazing players next to them in their early years’, stressed Kriss Helmanis

Last summer the forward that names Alperen Sengun and Josh Giddey as his toughest foes on the court as they already dominated the game in early years played the U-20 European championships for Latvia. The team went only 2-4, but Helmanis had a very consistent tournament averaging 13.3ppg, 7.2rpg, 2.2apg, Blocks-5 (1.7bpg), FGP: 58.0%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 65.0%. He has been part of Latvia’s youth national team for years as he also played at the U-16 European Championships in Serbia (6.0ppg, 6.6rpg, 1.2apg, 1.8spg, Blocks-4 (1.6bpg), FGP: 31.8%, 3PT: 25.0%) and also balled at the 2019 U-19 world championships (9.9ppg, 8.0rpg, 3.1apg, 1.6bpg, FGP: 42.6%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 47.8%. He definitely has a big future ahead of him and should be a main stay for years in the senior team. ‘Playing for the national team is always an amazing experience. Representing your own country on an international scale is an honor and I am proud to be able to do this. I think every basketball player growing up dreams of playing for their senior national team, and that is one of my goals as a basketball player and hopefully I can achieve that goal’, stated Kriss Helmanis.

Now the big powerful forward who lists Arturs Zagars, Yannick Kraag, Zsombor Maronka, Miguel Malik Allen and Ante Tomic as guys he has loved to play with the most in his career is playing in Germany with the Tigers Tuebingen. For a guy who’s father has had ties to Germany for years and coached here for a few, one has to wonder why he didn’t land in Germany earlier? ‘At that time I thought it was a better choice for me to go to Spain, there weren’t any reasons for me not to go to Germany, but I feel like Spain was the right option then’, remembered Kriss Helmanis. He probably won’t need to much adjustment time in the beginning, because he has known coach Jansson for some years. There is already a mutual trust there before that first team practice. Jansson is a coach on the rise and has made the Tigers Tuebingen club from a team on the decline to a top team in the Pro A. He is in a system where he is confident his game will shine in. ‘His team plays a style of basketball that gets everybody involved, super team-oriented basketball, which I really appreciate and would love to be a part of, and hopefully my skills will help the team succeed even more and compliment my teammates abilities’, said Kriss Helmanis in 2022. Coming from the ACB, teams and players will be gunning for him, but he also knows that there will always be pressure, but he knows the best remedy is to fight against it and have success. ‘ I am super excited as I have always felt like Germany was like home to me, I wouldn’t say I have pressure because I am doing the thing I love and it is a privilege to be in this situation. Obviously, I understand that people believe in me and I am going to work hard and do everything to make sure their trust in me pays off’, warned Kriss Helmanis in late summer 2022.

The Helmanis family

So what type of player has Pro A Germany seen with Kriss Helmanis who believes that Michael Jordan is the GOAT? He is a 208cm big man and wouldn’t necessarily classify his game to a Kristaps Porzingis who’s brother Janis is also his agent, but moreover would classify his game more to a Nikola Jokic. He has been watching Jokic’s assist highlights since he was drafted. It is also no surprise that he is a modern day forward. Nowadays a big man not incorporating a three is as strange as seeing Steph Curry go 2 games in a row without attempting a three. ‘I think basketball is evolving each decade and shooting is a skill that almost every player should have in their arsenal. Obviously, I was lucky that I had my dad to model my shot after ever since I was a kid, not a lot of players get that privilege’, commented Kriss Helmanis. He is a guy that watches a lot of video’s on players. He just wants to keep improving and being as versatile as possible. ‘I really like watching Nikola Jokic play, as well as Ante Tomic. They are not the most athletic players but they play intelligent basketball and I have learned a lot of things watching them play over the years, and really try to model myself after them. Of course I dream of having the same control over the game as both of them have, but I think I am on the right path. My main focus is getting better on the physical side of basketball, strength and agility’, expressed Kriss Helmanis. But it isn’t only watching Jokic video’s and remembering Ante Tomic’s advice, but it’s obvious his own papa was also a big influence. Being able to use both hands equally was massive. ‘ I would say the most important thing was him teaching me to shoot with my right hand. I was born a lefty, but one day he came up to me and started showing me how to shoot with my right hand, which still gives me an advantage, that I know how to use both hands’, warned Kriss Helmanis. This season he is currently averaging 6,4ppg, 3,9rpg and 1,4apg in 18 minutes per game and has sparkled as a potent role player. Currently he is battling Bremerhaven in the playoffs and lead the series 2-1. He is definitely a big man that has the fire to get better with hard work. He has played 1-1 against dad Uvis his whole life ‘ When I play against my dad the loser has to do push-ups. Let’s just say my dad has done a lot of push-ups’, smiled Kriss Helmanis. But one thing is for sure, he will still need to visit the gym on a regular basis to work on strength. He definitely won’t get physically stronger when he plays 1-1 against his dad because he doesn’t lose.


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