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Marta Leimane emerges as key part of CSU basketball success

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Collegian | Samantha Nordstrom
Colorado State University sophomore Marta Leimane reacts as teammate Cailyn Crocker shoots the ball into the basket in Moby Arena during the basketball game against the University of Colorado Colorado Springs Nov. 2.

In order to transform from good to great, a basketball team needs not only talent, hard work and execution but also depth.

For the Colorado State women’s basketball team, that depth came from a 5,000-mile trip across the Atlantic Ocean from Ventspils, Latvia, the hometown of Marta Leimane.

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Entering her sophomore season at CSU, the 6-foot guard has emerged as a key leader and veritable Swiss Army knife for the Rams’ bench unit, bringing consistency and versatility to any lineup she is placed in. 

Leimane’s presence has certainly been felt. The Rams’ bench is averaging 27.9 bench points per game and holding opponents’ benches to just 16.6 points a contest. 

Coach Ryun Williams praised the Latvian guard’s production on the court, especially with how new she is to the squad. 

“I mean, just when she’s on the floor, she’s a good player,” Williams said. “Obviously, she’s good enough to start as well. We’ve got a couple of kids that way that we feel they could easily be starting, but it just fits right now to bring them off the bench. But she’s just ready to go, you know, and she still only really has probably less than 15 college games under her belt. So for her going in and being productive and performing like she is, that’s such a credit to her focus and how she’s preparing.”

Leimane said she knew from the moment of recruitment that the green and gold was for her. 

“As soon as we started talking, I just felt that connection there,” Leimane said. “I felt like they really wanted me and wanted me to get better. (It) was a real connection right there at first sight, so that’s why I chose CSU.”

Leimane saw very few minutes in her first season at CSU, with only 108 total and a high of 23 in CSU’s final game of last season against Northern Iowa in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

Traveling across continents comes with understandable growing pains, which Leimane acknowledged when asked about the move to CSU. 

“(Playing in America) is a little different,” Leimane said. “The first year was a little harder with the (new) concepts, but I feel like that’s every team. Every team is going to have a different concept, and you’re going to have different opponents every time, so it’s just a question of if you can adapt or not, and I felt like the first year was a little challenging for me, but I adapted well in the second one.”

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Just seven games into her sophomore season, Leimane has already eclipsed her total minutes from last season with 139, including a career high of 31 in her career-best 18-point, five-rebound, four-steal performance against South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Teammate Sydney Mech shared many of those minutes with Leimane and commented she was proud of how Leimane has embraced her role in such a short time. 

“From her, I’m seeing a lot more confidence,” Mech said. “Obviously, last year, she played a different role on this team. This year, she’s kind of our float player. That’s our player that’s our main help on defense, and that’s a big role, and she’s been taking it on really well. It’s been fun to see especially because I’ve been here for so long — and to see someone young step up into that role and do it pretty well, it’s been really fun.”

Leimane’s ability to play within any lineup and contribute both offensively and defensively has made her invaluable to the team, even when she’s not outright scoring. 

On a team with a star like McKenna Hofschild, who is averaging 34.6 minutes a game — by far the most on the squad — players need to have that Swiss Army knife mentality, willing and ready to adapt to fit the needs of the lineup.

For Williams, Leimane is an embodiment of that versatility.

“She’s just up; it’s her turn,” Williams said. “She’s very good defensively for us. She has great versatility defensively. She’s a good driver for us. She’s got the midrange game, and (it’s) just fun to see her get the opportunity, and each game, she seems to be more and more aggressive, and she’s a very, very good athlete for us.”

Reach Will Engle at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @willengle44.

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