Latvian star Freds Pauls Bagatskis commits to Georgia Tech

Freds Pauls Bagatskis, a guard from Latvia, announced his commitment to Georgia Tech on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Freds Pauls Bagatskis)

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Freds Pauls Bagatskis, a guard from Latvia, announced his commitment to Georgia Tech on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Freds Pauls Bagatskis)

It appears that Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner will have a freshman signee after all. Freds Pauls Bagatskis, a guard from Latvia who has played for the past four seasons with a prominent club in Spain, announced his commitment early Tuesday via social media to be a part of the Yellow Jackets’ incoming freshman class.

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Bagatskis, a 6-foot-9 guard, could provide a perimeter-shooting threat for the Jackets, who have struggled in that area throughout Pastner’s tenure. In an interview conducted over the messaging application WhatsApp, Bagatskis wrote that that is a role envisioned for him by Tech coaches.

“They wanted someone who can space the floor and shoot the ball at a high level,” Bagatskis wrote. “I’m ready to bring that and hopefully help the team to be a dominant force in the ACC and nationally.”

For the past four years, Bagatskis has played in the system of Valencia, one of the more competitive teams in the Spanish league, first for its under-18 team and last year for its secondary team, a mixture of professionals and amateurs. He will play in July for the Latvian under-20 team in the FIBA European championship. His father, Ainars Bagatskis, was a longtime member of the Latvian senior national team and is now the coach of the Ukraine national team

Bagatskis said that playing college basketball in the U.S. appealed to him as an option as it would enable him to continue his training while getting an education. He made the decision to pursue that route in the spring. He said between 10 and 20 schools reached out to him with interest.

“It all happened really fast, to be honest, but I’m glad it did,” Bagatskis wrote. “Feels nice to have the next step already planned out.”

Bagatskis said he was looking for a school in a good location with strong academics and that could offer him what he termed “a great role” on the court.

“The scope was pretty specific,” Bagatskis wrote. “Not a lot of schools could fit that criteria so I was very picky, to be honest.”

After an official visit that concluded Monday, Bagatskis decided on Tech, the only school he visited. Bagatskis said he had considered Xavier and some other Big East schools, but that none of the other teams were able to accommodate a visit during the time that he planned to be in the U.S., which he interpreted as a reflection of their prioritization of him. He was persuaded by Tech’s ability to meet his criteria.

“Everything just felt like the perfect storm,” he wrote.

It remains to be seen how quickly Bagatskis, who is 18, will be able to contribute. But Tech could use perimeter scoring help particularly with the graduation of guard Michael Devoe and guard/forward Jordan Usher. Last season, the Jackets finished the campaign shooting 35.3% from 3-point range (90th in Division I). It was their highest finish in that category in Pastner’s six seasons. The Jackets have been 266th or lower four times, although the two highest finishes were in the past two seasons.

Upon his signing, Bagatskis will become the Jackets’ lone incoming scholarship freshman. Tech is the only ACC team to not have signed an incoming freshman, although Pastner has signed transfers Lance Terry (Gardner-Webb) and Ja’von Franklin (South Alabama) since the season ended. Tech is now at 11 scholarships for the next season, two under the maximum.

Bagatskis follows two Latvian basketball players who have joined Tech’s women’s team last year. Digna Strautmane played one season after coming to Tech as a grad transfer from Syracuse. Elizabete Bulane was a freshman last season.