Jekabsone-Zogota the Consummate Teammate, Pro
Anete Jekabsone-Zogota (or “AJZ” as she’s affectionately known) played with Erin Phillips for two years on the Connecticut Sun. The two actually roomed together during their tenure in Connecticut and have been good friends ever since.
In fact, their friendship is actually practical; they often share trail mix with Phillips preferring to eat the almonds and Jekabsone-Zogota the cashews.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone, then, that the duo has a new (and hilarious) postgame tradition of interviewing each other when the media is talking to other players.
It’s been dubbed, “AJZ Live.”
“That’s Erin’s thing, she always wants to interview me after every game,” Jekabsone-Zogota joked. “She knows I’ll have some good comments; that’s why she’s always asking me [laughs]. It’s [really] fun. Our lockers are next to each other so it makes it easy.
“If no one asks us questions, we’ll just interview each other,” Jekabsone-Zogota added.
Phillips usually uploads her videos to her Twitter account after each game. Check out their first postgame interview below.
If you spend just two minutes watching a Mercury practice, it’s impossible not to see how phenomenal of a teammate that Jekabsone-Zogota is. She is always smiling, high-fiving her fellow players (similar to Diana Taurasi) and working extremely hard.
In fact, after Thursday’s practice, she spent an additional 45 minutes putting up shots with assistants Todd Troxel and Julie Hairgrove. (This is not an uncommon occurrence.)
The extra work had paid off thus far with Jekabsone-Zogota already impressing Mercury fans with her sharp-shooting and lock-down defense. In her first game with the Mercury, AJZ scored a season-high 11 points on 4-of-4 field goals (3-of-3 from the three-point line).
Prior to the Mercury, she spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Sun averaging 8.5 points in 21.2 minutes per game and is a career 37.5 percent three-point shooter in the WNBA (she’s averaging 43 percent from beyond the arc in 2014).
Her European career is even more impressive. Jekabsone-Zogota shot 40.0 percent from three-point range in Euroleague play and 51.6 percent from three-point range in Russian League play in 2013-14 while playing alongside Diana Taurasi and Ewelina Kobryn for UMMC Ekaterinburg (coached by Sandy Brondello). In 2007, she was named the FIBA Europe Women’s Player of the Year.
Now back in the WNBA in 2014, Jekabsone-Zogota says the parity in the WNBA is at an all-time high.
“It’s fast and the competition is really good,” she said about the differences in the league since she last played. “The league is really strong; any team could win or lose on any given night. It’s great.
“You have to be 100 percent ready to play every game.”
In terms of her role on the Mercury, Jekabsone-Zogota’s familiarity with Brondello’s system has helped make the transition back to the WNBA both fun and exciting.
“It’s much easier, for sure, now,” she said. “I know the coaching staff and I’ve played with or against most of the players on the team for many years. Playing for Sandy [Brondello] in Russia, I knew the plays, sets and understand what she wants from me. My role is similar to that of UMMC in Russia.
“It’s not ‘new,’ and that has made the adjustment back to the WNBA much easier.”
Clearly, Jekabsone-Zogota is one of those players that seems to step up at the exact right moment. Indeed, the guard is a welcomed addition to the Mercury both on and off the floor.
And her episodes of “AJZ Live” with Erin Phillips is simply an added bonus.