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VEF Rīga
VEF Rīga logo
Nickname Vefiņš
Leagues LBL
Founded 2007 (1958)
History VEF Rīga
(1958-1992) (2007-present)
Arena Arena Riga
Arena Capacity 12,500
Location Riga, Latvia
Team colors Black and White
President Latvia Māris Martinsons
Head coach Spain Carlos Frade
Championships 4 Latvian Championship
1 Stepas Butautas Cup
Website vefriga.com
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Home jersey
Kit shorts white stripes.png
Team colours
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Away jersey
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Team colours

VEF Rīga is a Latvian professional basketball team that is based in Riga, Latvia. VEF Rīga is a four-time Latvian Basketball League champions.


Early years[edit]

The club name VEF came from the radio manufacturing company VEF which created the basketball club in 1958.[1] VEF Rīga has been home to some of the best Latvian players for more than five decades. At the beginning with legendary Alfrēds Krauklis as head coach and players like Cezars Ozers, Oļģerts Jurgensons, Bruno Drake, Juris Kalnins, Edmunds Dobelis, Juris Merksons, Visvaldis Eglitis and others, VEF soon started to compete in the Soviet Union League. Back in those days, Latvia was a reference in Soviet and European basketball, as ASK Rīga was the best team in the continent, winning three consecutive European Cup titles from 1958 and 1960 with stars like Jānis Krūmiņš, Maigonis Valdmanis and head coach Aleksander Gomelskiy. ASK's tremendous success overshadowed VEF's achievements such as finishing third in the very competitive USSR championship in 1960. VEF's star player Cezars Ozers made it to the Soviet Union national team that reached the Olympics title game against the United States in Rome 1960.

VEF Rīga confirmed its status as a Soviet Union League regular, keeping its name in the first division and becoming a hard-to-beat team at any level. The lack of a second continental club competition, however, prevented VEF from proving its value against teams all around Europe. VEF had its first golden age throughout the 1960s, with Merksons, Kalnins, Jurgensons Ozers, Eglitis and Drake as its core players. A major addition had taken place, too, as Krumins, the most dominant player in Europe for many years, decided to finish his legendary career at VEF, joining the club in 1964. Olgerts Altbergs replaced Krauklis as head coach and had a sudden impact, helping VEF to finish fourth in 1965. Kalnins won a silver Olympic medal with the Soviet Union in 1964, becoming the second VEF player to do so. The team did even better in 1966, finishing third in its domestic competition for the second time in club history. In 1969 team went down to the second division of Soviet league and it took some time to rebuild as the team got back into the Soviet Union elite in 1977 led by legendary player Valdis Valters.

Valters was a true superstar, the starting point guard in the Soviet Union national team that won the 1982 World Championships and also lifted the EuroBasket trophy in 1981 (Valters was named tournament MVP) as well as in 1985. Valters was also part of team that reached Eurobasket title game in 1983 and 1987. Valters left the national team when Sarunas Marciulionis took over, but still played for the VEF until 1990.

In later years Valters got some help as VEF added young talents like Igors Miglinieks, Gundars Vētra, Raimonds Miglinieks, Kārlis Muižnieks and Ainars Bagatskis. With arguably its best roster ever VEF was fifth in the Soviet Union League in 1985 and ranked sixth in 1987 and 1988. Vētra and Miglinieks led VEF to finish third in the 1991 Soviet Union League, a historical season in which the club made its debut in European club competitions. VEF downed ICED Bucuresti but fell against Iraklis in the 1991 Korac Cup second preliminary round. VEF went one step higher in 1992, taking part in the Saporta Cup. The club knocked off Braunschweig but VEF registered two narrow losses against Union Olimpija in the next round to step down before the group stage. Despite its good season, VEF stopped to exist in 1992[2]


The club was re-founded in 2007 with Valdis Valters as the head coach. VEF Riga started by competing in the Latvian League and the Baltic League second division. VEF Riga was made of young and talented players, so the team was improving gradually. It all paid off right away, as VEF Riga made it to the Baltic League second division title game in 2008 and 2009, earning the right to join the first division in 2009-10.

In the same season VEF returned to European competitions as it played in FIBA Euro Challenge. Also, VEF Rīga took part of VTB United League's inaugural regular season. In 2010, led by Alex Renfroe and Sandis Valters, VEF Riga reached Latvian League finals for the first time, where they lost 3-4 to Barons Riga. In the 2010 off-season VEF Riga made another step forward as they got chance to play in Eurocup. VEF Riga named Rimas Kurtinaitis[3] as the head coach and made some key roster moves like re-signing Sandis Valters along with acquisitions of other top Latvian players such as Kristaps Janičenoks, Kaspars Bērziņš and Dairis Bertāns.[4]

During the season Kurtinaitis left Riga for Russian powerhouse BC Khimki and he was replaced by another Lithuanian Ramūnas Butautas, who already had experience in Latvia having won the 2007 Latvian league championship with ASK Rīga. VEF Riga finished season as the winners of BBL regular season. Later in BBL play-off stage VEF Riga caused surprise where they eliminated the Lithuanian club Lietuvos Rytas at the BBL semi-finals, beating them 79:68.[5] This made it the first time that one of the BBL finalists wasn't Lietuvos Rytas. However, VEF Rīga lost in the final to Lithuanian basketball club Žalgiris, with a final score of 69:75.[6] In the Latvian League VEF Rīga returned to finals where they faced BK Ventspils. During intense series VEF Rīga managed to beat Ventspils, 4-3, winning first Latvian championship.

Before the 2011-2012 season VEF Rīga for the first time got opportunity to participate in Euroleague qualification round where they lost to ALBA Berlin. It meant VEF Rīga had to play in Eurocup where for the first time they reached Last 16 round. In Baltic League they finished in third place while in Latvian league VEF Rīga repeated as champions defeating Ventspils, in finals, 4-1. During the following off-season VEF Rīga got lucky by getting E.J. Rowland who was loaned from Unicaja Málaga with favorable conditions. Rowland turned out to be huge part of upcoming success. Rowland, surrounded with strong core that consisted of Latvian players, helped VEF Rīga to get wins over strong teams. Culmination of the season was on 15 January 2013 when VEF Rīga trashed Bilbao Basket at Arēna Rīga, 99-76.[7] However, VEF Rīga couldn't fulfill its entire potential that season as team was left one win short of reaching Eurocup Quarterfinals. In the VTB United League VEF Rīga stopped after Quarterfinals, but in Latvian League they won third title against Ventspils 4-1 series).

After very good season VEF Rīga lost its top players as Dairis Bertāns was bought out by Bilbao, E.J. Rowland signed lucrative contract in Turkey, which was followed by other departures as well. Season turned out to be disaster as VEF Rīga had bad luck building new team. One of the biggest signings of the summer, Gani Lawal, couldn't find common language with VEF Rīga's head coach Ramūnas Butautas and left the team in the preseason. VEF Rīga had first round exit in Euroleague qualification round which was followed by unsuccessful performance in Eurocup as they couldn't make second round. In the end, affected by injuries and some unexpected events like Derrick Nix leaving team one the eve Latvian League finals, after three years of dominance VEF Rīga lost domestic championship, losing to Ventspils 1-4.

In the 2014 off-season, VEF Riga went through rebuilding as several new faces (Jānis Timma, Mareks Mejeris) joined the team. VEF struggled in the international tournaments and failed to make the playoffs, but finished the season by winning Latvian championship.



Winners (4): 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015
Runners-up (2): 2010, 2014
Winners (0):
Runners-up (1): 2011
Bronze (1): 2012
Winners (0):
Runners-up (0):
Bronze (3): 1960, 1966, 1991

Season by season record[edit]


Note: Flags indicate national team eligibility at FIBA sanctioned events. Players may hold other non-FIBA nationality not displayed.

BK VEF Rīga roster
Players Coaches
Pos. # Nat. Name Ht. Wt. Age
C/G 4 United States Speedy Smith 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in) 82 kg (181 lb) 22 – (1993-01-28)28 January 1993
C/M 5 Latvia Mareks Mejeris 2.07 m (6 ft 9 in) 95 kg (209 lb) 23 – (1991-09-02)2 September 1991
C/G 6 Sweden Ludde Håkanson 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in) 87 kg (192 lb) 19 – (1996-03-22)22 March 1996
PG 7 Latvia Ingus Jakovičs 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in) 78 kg (172 lb) 22 – (1993-04-18)18 April 1993
SG 9 Mexico Francisco Cruz 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in) 90 kg (198 lb) 25 – (1989-10-03)3 October 1989
SG 11 Latvia Artūrs Strēlnieks 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in) 90 kg (198 lb) 30 – (1985-07-31)31 July 1985
SG 14 United States Quinn McDowell 1.94 m (6 ft 4 in) 94 kg (207 lb) 25 – (1990-01-13)13 January 1990
C/G 15 Latvia Dāvis Geks 1.92 m (6 ft 4 in) 81 kg (179 lb) 20 – (1995-03-07)7 March 1995
PF 16 Spain Guille Rubio 2.02 m (6 ft 8 in) 106 kg (234 lb) 32 – (1982-10-14)14 October 1982
G/F 31 Latvia Jānis Bērziņš 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in) 95 kg (209 lb) 22 – (1993-05-04)4 May 1993
C 33 Latvia Mārtiņš Meiers 2.08 m (6 ft 10 in) 108 kg (238 lb) 24 – (1991-03-30)30 March 1991
PG -- Latvia Kristaps Pļavnieks 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) 68 kg (150 lb) 20 – (1995-04-11)11 April 1995
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)
  • Latvia Jānis Gailītis
  • Latvia Jevgēnijs Kosuškins
Athletic trainer(s)
  • Latvia Jānis Petronis

  • (C) Team captain
  • Injured Injured

Updated: August 25, 2015

Notable former players[edit]


Notable former coaches[edit]


  1. ^ eurocupbasketball.com
  2. ^ eurocupbasketball.com
  3. ^ [1] VEF RIGA names Kurtinaitis head coach
  4. ^ [2] VEF RIGA grabs 3 for next season
  5. ^ "BBL Homepage". Bbl.net. 2011-04-09. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  6. ^ "BBL Homepage". Bbl.net. 2011-04-10. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  7. ^ VEF Riga 99 - 76 Uxue Bilbao Basket

External links[edit]