Sitting opposite Ronalds Elksnis having a quiet coffee in the Trafford Centre, it is hard to see why the polite, courteous and quiet man sipping a cappuccino opposite me is nicknamed “The Latvian Lion.” 

But any visitor to George H Carnall this season will know.. A tough, no nonsense forward, Elksnis puts his heart and soul into every game, practice and gym session.  

His work rate and talent was noticed early as he headed off to America to finish his high school education where his talent won him a spot playing basketball at Clark College in Portland, from where he acquired his nickname.

“In my sophomore year I got the nickname ‘The Latvian Lion’ from coach Rob because every day and every practice I came in and played hard, strong and with all my heart, giving one hundred per cent. Through to this day, I try to play every game like ‘The Latvian Lion’” 

Elksnis is a multi-dimensional player that doesn’t like to be simply pigeon-holed as “A big man”. His ability to shoot the three pointer stretches the floor on the offensive end as the taller players guarding him have to come out from under the basket to stop him, leaving gaps behind for his team mates to exploit.

Elksnis credits his parents with instilling in him the old fashioned values that he brings into his life and his work to this day: “ I grew up in a family where my parents are very strict, they are both doctors, with hard jobs. I am thankful that they raised me to be who I am, and taught me the responsibilities of hard work, of being a good person, doing the right thing and how important family is. That old fashioned way is helpful to learn what can make you happy and successful.”

You can see that upbringing expressing itself on the floor, “My style is to do all the little things that might not get noticed, rebounding, diving for loose balls, helping the defence. All those little things combined together will get you the win.” 

The 6’9” forward is evangelical about the lessons basketball can teach you, “Being disciplined, being on time, doing the hard work. These are all things that will help you later in life, it could be in basketball, school, university, whatever you’re gonna do – it’s very important.” 

Sitting opposite Elksnis, it struck me that a lion doesn’t have to roar for you to know it’s a lion.

By Liam Brown

This article originally appeared in the March edition of the Giants matchday magazine. 

Photography by Gary Oakley Photography