Winthrop’s win over Longwood was well in hand when Raivis Scerbinskis scored his first points as an Eagles player.
The Latvian redshirt freshman’s 3-pointer represented a big step for a player who has had a tough time getting going in Rock Hill. Scerbinskis -- whose name is pronounced (Rives/ Sher-bins-kiss) -- is the only player on the team that doesn’t live with basketball players. That combined with a tentative grasp on the English language and a redshirt year, made him seem a bit removed from the team at times last season.
But the 6-foot-8 Scerbinskis feels his improving English and understanding of the Eagles’ offensive and defensive systems, and a prolonged period of good health can help him make an impact at Winthrop moving forward. Learn more about the Eagles’ first Latvian player in this Q&A:
When did you first come to America? Was your first visit to America to Winthrop?
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It was my first time when I came here on official visit in April (2016). I was here for two days. Of course I was really scared but it was definitely really nice.
Did you come by yourself?
I came by myself.
Did it match what you had pictured or imagined?
I didn’t expect that for teams there’s that much coaching, managers, that stuff. Everything is perfect for basketball.
When did you begin to learn English?
Sixth grade. Before I came here I was learning English for six years but it was, like, two lessons a week.
How tough was your redshirt season?
Very tough, especially with Coach (Pat) Kelsey (laughs). Doing different things than I usually do, yeah it was tough.
What did you improve upon most last year during the redshirt year?
The main thing definitely was the weight room. I came here barely 200 pounds. At this point I am 225 pounds. That was the main part. Basketball-wise, definitely defense. When I came here I couldn’t guard at all. Xavier (Cooks), for example, is really hard. And also the defensive system was completely new for me.
And school has to be a lot easier if you’re speaking better English?
Yeah, but the system in America is overall easier than in Europe. Even first semester was already pretty easy. First semester I got GPA 3.1, second semester GPA 3.9. Language was a little bit struggle first semester. But overall academics, you can’t compare to Europe.
So, how good did it feel to hit that 3-pointer against Longwood? Long time coming...
(Laughs) It felt really good. Hopefully, it’s not the only one.
Kelsey had an unwritten rule that you couldn’t shoot 3-pointers in practice last season...
if I shoot 3, he gets a little bit angry with me. He’s always wants me to drive to the basket. If I didn’t do it, it... wasn’t good.
Are there any other Latvians at Winthrop?
Have you met any in America?
When were at Colorado State, there was one girl playing. I met her, just a little bit talking. One dude from Southern Illinois. They were here, he was Latvian. That’s all.
How often do you communicate with your family in Latvia?
Usually twice a week, when I have time, Skype.
What’s a food that you miss from Latvia?
Tough question. Um... maybe the pizzas, how they make them there. Maybe I haven’t eaten really good pizza here. But I really like how they make pizza there.
You’ve got the redshirt year and health troubles behind you, how excited are you to properly get your Winthrop basketball career going?
Yeah, this year also didn’t start as expected with ankle injury and back problems, so it was really hard for me to get back into things at practice. Now I’m practicing and hopefully I’ll prove myself.