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Kerr Kriisa starts but struggles in Estonia’s loss to Russia


As Kerr Kriisa waits to hear from the NCAA about his eligibility with the Arizona Wildcats, he is back in Estonia playing for the national team in FIBA qualifiers.

Kriisa started Saturday against Russia but struggled in the 84-56 loss, going 0-4 from the field—all 3-pointers—with three turnovers and one assist.

Here’s his shot chart:

Kriisa picked up a technical foul too and posted a -18 plus/minus in 15 minutes. It’s worth noting that three of Russia’s starters are in their 30s and most of their players are in their mid-20s or older. Kriisa is only 19.

Estonia returns to the court Monday against North Macedonia in Tallinn, the capital and most populous city in Estonia. The Estonians beat North Macedonia 81-72 when they last faced each other in February. Kriisa was on the roster but did not play.

The UA freshman is expected to return to Tucson after Monday’s game. Arizona coach Sean Miller said Friday that it was the right thing to let Kriisa play for his home country as he waits for clearance from the NCAA.

“We allow our players to play on USA Basketball and give them their opportunity,” Miller said. “Kerr also deserves his own opportunity.”

Kriisa recently told an Estonian news outlet that his eligibility issues are because of a youth contract he signed with Zalgiris, the club he played for before joining the Wildcats.

“Once we began on getting things sorted, I knew there could be issues but deep inside, I did not believe in it as I know five guys from Žalgiris’ development team who play in America,” Kriisa said.* “All of them had the same contract and all can play. It is a little mystical that they are messing with me like this, but yeah... That is how it is.”

When asked Friday if there’s a chance Kriisa stays in Estonia and/or doesn’t suit up for the Wildcats this season, Miller said: “I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t have the NCAA’s phone number. They don’t tell me what they’re going to do two weeks from now as it applies to amateurism and eligibility.

“We have our fingers crossed that at some point he can join us, like four or five other players from Europe that came here the same way he did. ... All we can do is send Kerr home to compete for his country, talk to him every day and wait for his return. I guess he has the option of not returning. I can’t really give you a wholehearted evaluation of his mindset until the conclusion of the tournament.”

*I believe this article was translated to English, so his quotes might not be totally accurate.