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Author Topic: ¶ Women Basketball Worldwide Stories & Free Comments • Del Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres  (Read 391615 times)
BGA Jorge Dunwhilly
eBA Stats Team
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Posts: 1264

« Reply #35 on: Jan 09, 2013, 05:39:19 AM »

Women Basketball Worldwide Stories & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

Turkish Cup is a real delight as Torrens returns

For everyone associated with Fenerbahce and Galatasaray, losing against your bitter rival can feel like the end of the world at the best of times, so we should probably spare a thought for Fener who lost the Turkish Cup in the most gut-wrenching circumstances imaginable last weekend.

For the neutral, it was high quality and high drama of the very highest order - a game which will live long in the memory of anyone who witnessed it and rather painfully for Fener, will be one of the most talked about Turkish domestic games for many years to come.

Having worked tirelessly to haul themselves back into a Final which had seemingly ebbed away from them when trailing by double-digits, Fenerbahce celebrated wildly as they tied the contest with an audacious three-pointer from Cappie Pondexter with just one-second on the game clock.

At that particular juncture, the pendulum had seemingly swung viciously in favour of Fener, but as their fans bounced up and down in jubilation at the prospect of realising this unexpected second chance and finishing the job in overtime, there was to be an epic sting in the tail.

As Galatasaray inbounded the ball with one second remaining, they found Sancho Lyttle who caught it, spun around and released, then along with everyone else, briefly held her breath as time seemed to stand still. For this was no sweet jump shot at all. The ball clattered off the backboard but wiped its feet and fortunately for the forward and her team, dropped.

It sparked scenes of bedlam both on and off the court as Galatasaray players, officials and fans went nuts and celebrated a fourth successive Cup success, simultaneously extracting revenge for their Presidents’ Cup loss to Fenerbahce earlier in the season.

But, amongst the pandemonium of the obligatory court invasion, the wild celebrations and the stark contrast of crestfallen Fenerbahce players trudging off to the locker rooms trying to contemplate a dagger being driven cruelly through their hearts, Spanish eyes were smiling thousands of miles away - even as far afield as China.

For this wonderful and dramatic occasion also marked the return to action of a certain Alba Torrens.


And it won’t only have been Spanish national team head coach Lucas Mondelo sat with a broad grin on his face on the other side of the globe.

Alba Torrens in a match with the Spanish National Team against Anastasiya Verameyenka of Belarus

No, we all rejoice in the return of Alba, since women’s basketball needs its marquee players on the court and it was certainly a memorable and fitting occasion for a player of her stature to announce her arrival.

The Cup triumph was tinged with some sadness however. For the participation of Torrens, perhaps a little earlier than the Gala staff management would have liked, was facilitated by the loss of centre Sylvia Fowles who had to return home to the States for due to a bereavement. And, we of course, send our best wishes to Sylvia and her family.

What I loved about this Turkish Cup Final was that it underlined and re-enforced why you just have to love women’s basketball, it cemented the theory that the quality of women’s basketball in Turkey is up there with the best (certainly in a European context) and poured a little more fuel onto one of the greatest rivalries there is.

And for sure, there is absolutely nothing more compelling and fascinating than observing an intense rivalry whilst simultaneously being served up with this kind of epic drama and entertainment.

For Pondexter, who hit the highs with that last gasp triple to seemingly save the day, it was a painful day in more ways than one. She was so upset she apparently punched some glass in anger, disappointment and frustration on her way to the locker rooms and was left nursing some stitches and 10 days out of action injured as a result!

As an aside and still on the topic of great rivalries, it also perhaps went a little under the radar (due to seasonal festivities) that EuroLeague Women favourites and the previously unbeaten UMMC Ekaterinburg, actually lost for the first time this season a couple of weeks ago.

Who defeated them? Yes, you’ve guessed it, their great rivals, Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje.

Refreshed and re-charged after the winter beak, watching these aforementioned quartet of women’s club basketball heavyweights slug it out, just whets the appetite further for what promises to be another stunning year of women’s basketball at all levels and not least in EuroLeague Women since all have a chance to top the podium.

I absolutely love it - so bring it on!

 Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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BGA J.J. Diaz
eBA Stats Team
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« Reply #34 on: Dec 20, 2012, 03:13:20 AM »

Women Basketball Worldwide Stories & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

Fenerbahce  Roberto Íñiguez and his fatherly pride

One of the many beauties of being a sports writer is that you sometimes get a wonderful insight into something quite different and very personal.

I was lucky enough to notice a tweet earlier this month sent by @Robertoih5 aka Roberto Iniguez, the reigning EuroLeague Women champion coach, now at Fenerbahce.

He was publicly expressing his pride at his teenage son making his senior debut for Villarreal CF as the football club continues its quest to gain promotion and a return back to the top flight of Spanish football.

From the moment I saw the tweet, I was fascinated as to the dynamic between basketball coach (and former pro player) father and his football playing son.

“Obviously I'm very proud,” beamed Iniguez.

“My son has been playing since he was 10 years old at Villarreal CF, and it’s very nice to see your own child progress and evolve each season.

“He was called up during previous matches with the first team, even last year in European club competition, but was not lucky enough to be handed a debut.

“Now, at the age of 18 years old, he is working as a player with the first team, and the opportunity has finally come.

He continued: “For me, the most important thing is that my son does what he loves.

Turkish club Fenerbahce has named Spaniard Roberto Íñiguez as their head coach for the upcoming season.
Iniguez was the coach of EuroLeague  and Spanish league champions Ros Casares last season.
While leading Ros Casares he suffered only one defeat – to Perfumerias Avenida in the Copa de la Reina final.

“As a parent, I support and help him in any way I can - the only thing I ask him is to work day by day doing everything with heart.

“I was a professional basketball player and now a coach, and always I tried to convey him the values and principles of a good sportsmanship.”

So, does dad get involved in giving advice on the football front, and is it better Pablo isn’t a basketball player?

“Football? I have no idea - or at least that's what he claims,” laughed Iniguez.

“We have mainly talked a lot about attitude, perseverance, effort, respect and to be humble and to be a nice guy.

“So, in terms of whether it is better than Pablo plays soccer? Sincerely, yes!

“Firstly, because we now have two different sports to discuss at home, and secondly, because if he was a basketball player, it would be hard to put up with me - I'd just be far too heavy on him!”

Whilst Iniguez may actually be relieved he doesn’t have one more pro basketball player to contend with, he did admit that initially, the temptation to try and steer his son towards the court was too much to resist.

He admitted: “Yes, I took my son to shoot and dribble when he was very young to a basket near where we resided.

“However, I quickly realised that what he liked to do was to play football.

“One day, when I went to pick him up at school when he was eight years old, I arrived a few minutes early and when I looked into the school yard, I saw Pablo playing football and enjoying it so much - absolutely drenched in sweat.

“It was then I realised that football was his sport.”

Still, whilst the sports may be different, the bond is very strong and the shared values are what lie at the heart of the relationship as football and basketball cross over into family life.

“Our relationship has always been very close - we are very close,” said Iniguez.

“Now that he is becoming more mature, we talk more about his coach and my players, but my son knows very well that you should always respect the work of everyone.

“He knows that working as a coach is not easy.

“On the other hand, when one of us has a problem, we always say the same thing - something we have said for several years: Always forward, always positive, always learning!”

Iniguez purposefully spells it out in capital letters, to re-enforce this shared mantra, or perhaps more accurately, a verbal contract between father and son, a verbal contract between a coach and a player. Whatever way you look at it, it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment because it makes sense.

“I think now we both learn from each other, and as the years pass, I recognise that so many times, I am amazed by his ability to analyse things” adds the play-caller.

Much of his time is now spent geographically separated from his homeland and of course, from Pablo. So, perhaps it’s a blessing that due to the rigorous demands of coaching in the white-hot atmosphere of Istanbul, he has plenty work of his own to focus on other than worrying about the progress of his boy.

“Yes, my life in Fenerbahce is work, and then more work” he confirmed.

“I have barely had time to practice being a tourist, but I can’t complain since I am at a great club.

“I am fortunate to belong to it because it has excellent facilities and is a fantastic situation.

“Yes, it’s true that it sometimes feels so far from the people you love, but I've had some family visits and during Christmas, a certain football player will visit for a few days.

“Everything is intense here. I don't need pressure because I'm very hard and demanding on myself.

“Our various competitions do not allow any relaxation. I especially feel very involved and committed to the club, the nice people and their philosophy.”

 Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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Love Women Basketball
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« Reply #33 on: Dec 06, 2012, 03:04:18 AM »

Women Basketball Worldwide Stories & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

Sensational prospect Stewart is no Candace Parker

If you’re talking with friends about the next big thing in women’s basketball, it’s a no-brainer that Breanna Stewart will be mentioned at some point in the conversation.

Another golden girl from the conveyor belt of outstanding young USA talent which continues to roll in rather relentless fashion, decade after decade, Stewart has finally made the transition from high school to Husky.

And, the freshman has made an instant impact at UConn. Only last night, a huge crowd in excess of 10,000, watched Stewart and her team-mates despatch Maryland, meaning the buzz around the potential of the player is becoming louder with each minute she spends treading the boards.

Hailed as the future of women’s hoops by the likes of Slam Online, having won Gatorade High School Athlete Of The Year honours to follow the likes of Candace Parker and the former Huskies duo of Tina Charles and Maya Moore, she’s causing the same kind of stir and excitement.

And it’s not just the fans who are getting excited either. The highly-respected Rebecca Lobo of ESPN was so impressed when she watched Stewart during the summer with the USA Youth teams (where the player has accumulated up a serious medal haul and several personal accolades) that she sent a tweet basically suggesting the player was already up to WNBA standard. She also said via ESPN that Stewart was the best high school player she had ever seen play.


Few would disagree and she has already caused wider interest and put her name up in lights after an impromptu decision to join the boys’ Dunk Contest at the McDonald’s All-American Game this year where she threw down a couple of alley-oops.

UConn-commit Breanna Stewart is the 2011-12 Player of the Year. She had always been a talented player who commanded attention, but this year she also made her team a national Top 10 power.

Not surprisingly, UCONN and USA head coach Geno Auriemma is trying to strike a balance with Stewart. He is doing the same job as he has done with other big prospects by trying to temper the excitement surrounding her just a little and talking about Stewart within a team context wherever possible.

However, it won’t be easy even for a coach of his stature to keep a lid on things – such is the hype which was of course magnified by Stewart joining other female dunkers like Brittney Griner and Parker.

The buzz surrounding the likes of Griner, and now Stewart, has opened up the debate as to whether these young dunkers can help boost the popularity of the women’s game.

As the next batch of potential global women’s basketball stars, it’s hard to disagree that they won’t bring a raft of new fans who will enjoy their strength, athleticism and skills - attributes which seem to be evolving with each generation.

For me, you have to place this particular question into a wider context. If players dunking the ball for example, brings more attention and interest and this is beneficial then great. But, on the flip-side, we maybe shouldn’t lose sight of the possibility that the women’s game doesn’t necessarily have to try and move closer to achieving the same headline attributes which fuel the men’s game.

Women’s basketball is what it is because of the full package it offers. And, a bit like Stewart herself, it’s the full package that makes ordinary become special. Yes, she can dunk occasionally, but in my opinion, that should never be the headline moving forward - unless it is the game-winning basket.

That’s because Stewart has the full package and shouldn’t be all about the dunking element. Her outstanding versatility, court smarts, devastating perimeter shooting range and ability to run the floor in transition are all perfectly fusing with her mind-boggling seven feet wing-span and incredible athleticism.

Additionally, watch the videos of Stewart dunking, and outwardly at least, she almost seems to be wondering what all the fuss is about. And for me, if this is the case, that's a great sign of a player with her feet on the ground (if you pardon the pun) and who knows what really matters in the game.

As with the emergence of all rising stars, comparisons are already being made to the greats. In her particular case, I have seen some ‘tale of the tape’ exercises comparing her to Parker for example.

But, comparing a bona-fide worldwide star with an albeit outstanding prospect still only just dipping her toes into the college game, is very much an apples and pears scenario – at this stage at least.

If, or perhaps more accurately, when Stewart eventually makes the grade at the very highest level, she won’t be the next Candace Parker – she’ll be the one and only Breanna Stewart.

It’s going to be a real thrill following her progress in coming years and I sincerely hope she achieves everything she wants in the game, and not necessarily what others expect her to achieve.

Most importantly of all, at this crucial phase of her development, she’s in exactly the right place and in very capable hands.

 Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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Chichi Piol
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Posts: 601

« Reply #32 on: Nov 25, 2012, 01:47:12 AM »

Women Basketball Worldwide Stories & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

Russian League shows its teeth

There’s always much debate within the women’s basketball family as to which is the best domestic league. The answer for many is obviously the WNBA, and particularly since EuroLeague Women is taken out of the equation with it not falling neatly into the category of being a domestic league.

The Russian league is one of the next strongest, and it’s been interesting of late to note how the traditional powerhouse duo of Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje and UMMC Ekaterinburg could potentially find their dominance more difficult to sustain with a number of other teams trying to plug the gulf in class.

Yes, the chasing pack has lifted its collective game considerably, and is now a more potent threat which is making the Russian League incredibly intense and competitive. Just recently, Sparta&K MR. Vidnoje lost successive league games and because they are such an illustrious club, this was (whether they liked it or not) particularly newsworthy. It also highlighted the increasing danger posed by other Russian clubs.

These include Nadezhda who are potential EuroLeague Women Final Eight candidates and Dynamo Kursk who has a start-studded roster and remain favourites to retain the EuroCup Women title they won last season. In fact they are still unbeaten this season.

Dynamo Moscow meanwhile has a string of Russian national team players such as Ilona Korstin, Svetlana Abrosimova, Tatiana Vidmer and Nadezhda Grishaeva to call upon.

Then, even just below this primary chasing pack are the likes of Dynamo-GUVD, a mid to lower ranking club that has relied on their Russian core of Natalia Myasoedova and rising stars such as Tatiana Petrushina and Anastasiya Shilova. This season however, they have boosted their talent levels further by welcoming imports Yvonne Turner and Sidney Spencer.

The all-round strength of the Russian League this season is something that even new UMMC Ekaterinburg head coach Olaf Lange has noticed. Although as you might expect, there’s only one team Ekat looks out for on the season schedule.

“Yes, I wholeheartedly agree,” he said.

“The Russian League is one of the best domestic leagues, and I am excited to be able to experience it first hand.

“Rivalries really make our sport special as they bring out the best in everyone and this one is no different!

“I am certainly looking forward to a lot of battles with Sparta&K!”

Please, Refresh this Page Once to Load all the Previews, Photographs or the Videos !

Sparta&K is perhaps the most interesting case of all. With a still large but undeniably reduced budget from a few years ago, it is evolving its approach with impressive pace and results.

Augustus from Spartak to Galatasaray for a million? Apparently, no!

For in addition to signing stellar talent such as Candice Dupree, Seimone Augustus and Becky Hammon to name but a few, it has also poured resources into the development of younger players, both Russian as well as the signing the very best from around Europe – including Nika Baric and Emma Meesseman, both FIBA Europe Young Player Of The Year winners.

They have been loaning out some of those players with terrific success - national team centre Natalia Vieru being a prime example. She has been in fine form since she returned from her spell last season at Good Angels Kosice. It’s a smart and shrewd strategy by Sparta&K as they try to retain their place at the head of the top table but also contribute to developing the national team with their strategy.

General Manager Steve Costalas explained: “During the first years of Sparta&K Vidnoje, Shabtai von Kalmanovich built a unique farm system just as he had done in Kaunas and till today we have already seen some of the products of this farm system.

“Forty percent of our annual budget is dedicated to our youth teams and our farm system. I really do not know of many (if any) other club that does the same.

“Anna Arkhipova von Kalmanovic is also working based on this philosophy and now we are proud to say that just this summer gone, 11 Sparta&K players played in a total of four Russian women teams.

“Natalia (Vieru) has been with us since she was 16 years old and after loaning her for a year to Kosice, we are expecting her to do what she knows so well.

“This season we decided to loan Ksenia Tikhonenko to another Euroleague team (Municipal Targoviste) which is a class organization with a very good coach (George Dikeoulakos) and we are waiting for her to return more experienced and mature.”

“At the same time joining the first team this season will be Galina Kiseleva and Darya Namok who both this past summer were instrumental in Russia reaching the Final at the U20 European Championship Women.

“We hope they will improve by practicing everyday with some of the best players in the world as well as by fighting for some quality playing time.

The family atmosphere at Sparta&K and the seemingly perfect fusion of youth and experience is set for a stern challenge this season, and it will be fascinating to see if both they, and their fellow heavyweights Ekat, can continue to slug it out.

Or, whether a new challenger can emerge and land a telling sucker-punch in the race for silverware in what is a deliciously intense and competitive Russian League.

 Paul Nilsen from FIBA

Visit: The eBA Stats Group WITH YOU on Google PLUS
Full Member
Posts: 400

« Reply #31 on: Oct 04, 2012, 08:08:34 AM »

Women Basketball Worldwide & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

EuroBasket Women Groups C and D look particularly tough to call

Continuing my thoughts on how the first round of EuroBasket Women 2013 might unfold after the recent draw, the bottom half is packed with no less than four Olympic teams and could provide the two biggest dog-fights as participants seek to avoid being dumped out prematurely.

Group C contains hosts France along with Great Britain, Latvia and Serbia. And, the home crowd should anticipate finishing top of the pile, building on their sensational silver medal in London. Any fears that Les Bleues might not be focused should be allayed by heightened expectation as not only the host nation, Olympic runners-up.

Boosted by the decision of head coach Pierre Vincent to continue at the helm, France should breeze through this initial phase. All eyes will inevitably be on Celine Dumerc who had the hot hand in the British capital and with her pulling the strings in the backcourt, another podium finish is a no-brainer.

However, as many hosts have found out before, being the home team can be a curse as well as a blessing and the players must cope with that aforementioned weight of expectation. But, in reality, they should feed off the energy these passionate supporters bring.

The only other note of caution is that they haven’t beaten Latvia for quite some time and had a real battle to edge out Great Britain when they last locked horns although neither will keep coach Vincent awake at night.

Quite how Latvia, Serbia and Great Britain can be separated at this point in time I really don’t know! Trying to pick who will be sent home early is difficult but at this stage, and if forced to choose, I would say Great Britain will be back on the Eurostar and heading to Waterloo station by the end of the first round.

Coach Tom Maher has done a wonderful job but is not necessarily going to be in charge. The multi-talented Jo Leedham has WNBA ambitions and the likes of the rock solid Kim Butler has called it a day. Of course much can happen between now and June, so we will see. But the outlook isn’t particularly bright at this juncture.

Still, Latvia and Serbia do not represent any major fear factor for Great Britain. Both are decent teams although prior to qualification earlier in the summer, neither was particularly noted as favourites to punch their respective tickets for France.

Latvia continue to undergo a transitional phase in what some are describing as a ‘post Anete Jekabsone’ period as they integrate many talented young players including the likes of the sharp-shooting Ieva Krastina - although notably, the veteran Jekabsone may not have necessarily played her last game in a Latvian vest. We’ll see.

With experienced frontcourt duo Liene Jansone and Zane Tamane, Latvia always has a foundation to build on and perhaps their prospects will depend on whether they re-integrate Elina Babkina who missed out this year due to injury issues. Either way, new head coach Aigars Nerips should certainly be congratulated for his work and was deservedly rewarded with an extension to his contact recently.

Another coach who has done a wonderful job is Marina Maljkovic of Serbia. Without the WNBA skills of Sonja Petrovic and without stand-out Jelena Milovanovic for much of the qualification campaign due to injury, she still guided her team through in hugely impressive fashion. I like the Serbian team a lot and they could shake things up in Group C.

Last but not least, Group D is seriously tough and also very, very interesting with Czech Republic, Croatia, Belarus and Lithuania all potentially well-matched.

Czech Republic will inevitably be installed as favourites due to their history in the competition and of course, because they reached the Quarter-Finals of the Olympics in London - even if they were undeniably below-par.

Coach Lubor Blazek needs to get his team back to their best although perhaps a new era beckons for the Czech team and it must be a concern there are a few hugely influential veterans who will no longer be able to commit.

Croatia is fascinating. They are the buoyant team who must take the bold step of heading into this tournament believing they can make the last four. There is no reason they can’t. They have the players and they now have even more tournament experience.

Centre Marija Vrsaljko is a terrific prospect and capable of big things, they have great leadership from a number of players such as Ana Lelas, Andja Jelavic, Sandra Mandir and Jelena Ivezic.

Lithuania is always tough. Even with a sting of absentees, they still qualified relatively comfortably and have a glut of excellent 1990’s born players which bodes well for the future. And, if important players like Ausra Bimbaite return next summer, they will be a tricky customer for their Group D rivals.

Finally, Rimantas Grigas and his Belarus players need to take some serious plaudits for qualifying for this tournament. Still suffering a hangover from their agonisingly premature exit at EuroBasket Women 2011 in Poland, then pitched into arguably the most difficult qualification group and without their marquee player Yelena Leuchanka, they still managed to prevail.

You could of course argue that Belarus is the one team in women’s basketball which commands love and respect from their nation more than any other. They are the true darlings of Belarussian sport, role-models and the pin-ups of many teenagers in Minsk.

On that basis alone, it’s wonderful to see them reach another major tournament and I am assuming the nation will once again be gripped by their exploits when they step out onto the floor in Trelaze.

Yes, EuroBasket Women 2013 promises to be a truly fantastic couple of weeks.

 Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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Coach Rounin9
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« Reply #30 on: Sep 27, 2012, 07:14:31 PM »

Women Basketball Worldwide & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

EuroBasket Women 2013 draw throws up talking points in groups A and B

Having barely had time to breathe since the end of the London Olympics, European teams are already eyeing up the podium at EuroBasket Women 2013 in France next year after last week’s draw in Paris.

The 16 teams were pitched into four groups of four and, there were plenty of talking points. Not least, the completely diverse opinion formed since the draw in terms of which groups are potentially the toughest.

Even the obligatory ‘Group Of Death’ does not exist – or at least in terms of a universal consensus. Some have tried to pin this badge onto a specific group but the real thrill about this EuroBasket Women 2013 draw is that it looks quite beautifully balanced.

Group A containing Montenegro, Ukraine, Turkey and Slovak Republic should - on paper at least - see Turkey advance as group winners and Montenegro finish in second spot with the other two teams basically playing each other to avoid an early ticket home.

Olympic quarter-finalists Turkey can’t take anything for granted though. The elite level is a road paved with danger and especially when tired or lacking in focus and concentration. I expect Turkey to not only win Round 1, but also to get back onto the podium which will continue their momentum and confidence for when they host the FIBA World Championship Women in 2014.

Montenegro is a really tough team. One of the newest kids on the block, this tiny nation is replicating the success of their male counterparts and making the people of Podgorica and the surrounding area very proud of their efforts.

Having made history by reaching their first-ever major tournament at EuroBasket Women 2011 in Poland, they seized their opportunity with both hands and posted an absolutely tremendous performance during the first two phases of the competition before eventually running out of steam to just miss out on a spot for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women.

They will be a dangerous opponent with the dynamic play of Iva Perovanovic, the reliability of Jelena Dubljevic and veteran guard play of Jelena Skerovic. Although notably, they still have little or no depth so it is likely to be the case that luck and avoiding injuries will again be of paramount importance.

Both Ukraine and Slovak Republic won’t be fancied to advance and it looks like one of these teams will be dropped quickly from the competition. But, few people gave Ukraine much of a chance to even qualify and yet they did remarkably well in a really difficult qualification group.

With 20-year-old phenomenon Alina Iagupova on their roster, absolutely anything is possible as she showed earlier this summer. Ukraine actually have a number of good quality players such as Oleksandra Kurasova so they really should not be under-estimated.

As for Slovak Republic, they just continue to roll to EuroBasket Women tournaments even when their preparations ahead of qualification have been far from ideal - as happened this year. They have few, if any, star names and especially with Zuzana Zirkova looking like she may have worn a national team vest for the last time.

At all levels, including youth too, they just play good and really solid team basketball. They work hard and get results. Certainly in terms of value for money, Slovak Republic women’s teams always seem to squeeze every last drop out of what they have and major props to head coach Ivan Vojtko.

Group B could be absolutely wonderful and would be my pick for the most intriguing. Sweden, Spain, Russia and Italy are all pitched together with so many factors to consider. The emerging Swedes were sensational during qualification, beating the Spanish both home and away and so that particular rivalry will be renewed.

Sweden is one of the most exciting women’s basketball nations around with some amazingly talented generations, a sprinkling of veterans, but essentially, just brilliant young players now beginning to deliver. With the outstanding Frida Eldebrink, Louice Halvarsson as well as Elin Eldebrink, Stefanie Yderstrom and a host of other young players now maturing way before their time, the future looks wonderful. Especially if the even younger Farhiya Abdi, Amanda Zahui and Binta Drammeh also push for selection.

Spain is still arguably trying to recover from their disappointing display at EuroBasket Women 2011 when they under-achieved. Lucas Mondelo took over the coaching reins from Jose Hernandez and completed the first part of his mission.

It had been anticipated that great veterans like Amaya Valdemoro, Elisa Aguilar and Ana Montanana might not continue after what happened in Poland, but they did and that was pivotal in qualifying for France. With some excellent young talent coming through such as Marta Xargay, Queralt Casas, Vanessa Ble and many others, coach Mondelo will have to make some big decisions when he decides on his final roster.

Spain and Sweden should probably advance along with Olympic participants and reigning Eurobasket Women champions Russia who will be favourites to take top spot. But, the Russians are historically very slow tournament starters and this time around, I really don’t think they can afford not to bring their ‘A game’ from the first tip-off. They dodged early bullets against Slovak Republic and Great Britain last year en route to gold and one day, a slow start could prove costly.

Meanwhile many people are tipping a new-look Italy to finish bottom of Group B and crash out early, but they are perhaps a little more resilient and talented than some are giving them credit for.

With great leadership from Raffaella Masciadri, the exciting playmaking skills of Giorgia Sottana and the dynamic Ilaria Zanoni, they have a huge capacity to surprise as vibrant new team still finding their identity and playing without fear or pressure.

Next week here, I’ll take a closer look at Groups C and D.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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« Reply #29 on: Sep 21, 2012, 10:25:24 PM »

Women Basketball Worldwide & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

Are all the best players really American?

When a non basketball-loving friend recently asked me if all the best women players in the world were American, I nodded. But, I subsequently realised that I had done so with my mind comfortably locked on auto-pilot and that this casual enquiry deserved to be checked out with a little more depth.

Granted, it’s not exactly a new concept to consider such a question, but the women’s game is a shifting landscape and, from time to time, it’s probably useful to consider if the almost ‘programmed’ response about the best players in the world all hailing from the States is genuinely justified.

All summer long, I have penned column pieces about the dominance of the USA, their golden Olympic destiny, potential ‘dream team’ status and a raft of general trumpet blowing, but I'm not sure I ever looked deeper under the surface and double-checked whether all the very best players on the planet are indeed from the USA.

Setting myself (and also you out there) a challenge, which players from elsewhere in the world could have made it into the USA Olympic squad? Or, perhaps more simply, how many of the best 12 players in the world are not actually American?

It’s subjective of course and if I was to list my favourite players in women’s basketball, I can assure you that American players would not be anywhere near as dominant but then favourite should never get confused with a judgement about the best.

Having taken an eternity to seek out contenders and having also thrown this question out to women’s basketball followers (and indeed players) on Twitter, I think I have just about arrived at the conclusion that one player would certainly get onto the USA roster, three players might and a few others would at least be in the conversation.

For me, Lauren Jackson is a no-brainer. The one player who I feel that is a dead cert to be in the mix. With such legendary status, there’s probably no point in elaborating any further by stating the obvious. We all know her class, track record and deserved stature within the women's game.

The three ‘maybes’ include her Australian team-mates Liz Cambage and Penny Taylor. The former obviously tore it up at the Olympics and grabbed a huge chunk of the limelight while the latter agonisingly missed out on London 2012 due to a knee injury but is an established world-class player.

There was also a considerable groundswell of support on for French playmaker Celine Dumerc who was perhaps the true darling in the British capital. She helped France land a silver medal and showed any of her last remaining doubters the true level of her talent.

It is however intriguing to consider how many people would have tweeted or suggested Dumerc before the action got underway in London. Of course, many people have admired her qualities for a long time now but she certainly won new fans with her performances in the summer and she underlines the reality of it being a fluid situation when it comes to opinion on who is the best.

Another really fascinating contender put forward was Becky Hammon. But I guess talking about the Russian guard in the same breath as the USA Olympic roster is re-visiting one of the biggest can of worms imaginable. Hammon is absolute quality, this is undeniable. Although as with most players, there is no strong consensus she is currently one of the best 12 in the world but would probably be in there was if it was a list of favourite players.

When it comes to the guard spots in particular, whether you squeeze Dumerc or Hammon into the top 12 (as good as they are), they are surely only back-ups to Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. Still, you would certainly struggle to get a better backcourt quartet.

Hammon wasn’t the only Russian player nominated by fans who joined the debate. The legendary Maria Stepanova (who like Penny Taylor also missed out on the Olympics with a knee injury), was also suggested. However, you can’t help but wonder if there might be a slight shudder by some Russians at how few realistic contenders there are - an issue which veteran star Elena Baranova referred to recently in this column with much disappointment and regret.

All of which brings us to a key point. Will this American dominance ever change in the future? Probably not.

Although it opens up the question as to whether any of the younger players emerging outside of the USA will ever reach this level of megastar status and become one of the best players around. And, this is why I love following women’s youth basketball so much too. It's a real buzz trying to set your eyes on a 16- or 17-year-old who one day may become a great of the game.

Finally, the toughest question I find myself having to deal with when considering all of the above is that if you want to squeeze in any combination of Jackson, Taylor, Cambage, Dumerc, Hammon, Stepanova (or anyone else for that matter) just exactly who are you going to cut from the 12 that grabbed a gold medal?

I tried to decide for 30 minutes but it was a thankless and arduous task - or at least that's my conclusion after seeing the number of paper balls which were lying at the bottom of the trash after this exercise.

Therefore I will just have to be satisifed with the general notion that, (as I told my friend), “Yes, most of the best players are American.” - and simply leave it at that for now.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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« Reply #28 on: Sep 13, 2012, 11:48:39 PM »

Women Basketball Worldwide & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

Red-hot Dutch may need to look beyond Rio

You really have to hand it to the Netherlands after an exciting and successful summer of youth basketball; although it still may be prudent for them to consider re-drafting their short to medium term plan which has Rio 2016 at its’ heart.

The Netherlands Basketball Federation deserves huge congratulations for the positive results and performances which flowed more or less right through every age category in recent months, but as a neutral observer, I do think the task of getting the senior national team to the next Olympic Games remains overly optimistic.

I really admire Dutch basketball for aiming high, but surely reality is likely to bite hard during the next four years. Because, when this impressive glut of fine young players inevitably makes the incremental transition to the senior national team, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be up to Rio standard in the space of just one Olympic cycle. I could be plain wrong of course.

Additionally, this is not me viewing the glass as half empty but actually quite the opposite. The Dutch glass is very much half-full and could one day be overflowing.

I think they have an absolutely wonderful opportunity to realise their lofty Olympic ambition by 2020 which I feel is a more appropriate timescale since it is the medium to long term which looks to be the brightest.

It’s a sentiment echoed loudly by Rene Spandauw who recently helped Netherlands create history at the U20 European Championship Women in Debrecen, Hungary by reaching the Semi-Finals for the very first time.

He was excited and hugely supportive of the work being undertaken at all levels but admitted that the fruits of this hard labour at youth level may not be realised by the senior national team for some time.

“Well, taking these positive results to the senior team should of course be the next step and I think the performances during this summer give us a very good basis for the next 10 years” Spandauw said.

“We set ourselves a goal of wanting to try to get to Rio 2016 and maybe that is little bit of a premature target.

“But, believe me, everybody involved with the Federation and the coaches and players at all levels are working hard on it.”

He continued: “It might be four years too early because the current generations we are working with at youth level are hugely talented but will probably need a little longer to fully realise their potential.

“However, we feel that it won’t be long before we can begin to qualify for major tournaments with the senior national team.”

After recently missing out on a place at EuroBasket Women 2013, it’s going to be at least another two to three years before they manage to achieve this goal, but I can't wait to track these young players as their respective careers unfold and also see how they evolve as a group at the elite level in coming years.

Many of the players who just missed out on a bronze in Debrecen are now too old for youth competition and will be looking to cement their respective places in the senior team very soon whilst it won’t be long for the players who reached the Semi-Finals of the U18 European Championship Women either.

Throw in those even younger players from the FIBA U17 World Championship Women and the future is bright – the future is orange.

Pouring resources into the impressive set-up at CTO Amsterdam where the players are learning their skills is terrific but perhaps the real delicate balance in terms of whether Netherlands ever truly become a force to be reckoned with in the women’s game is the standard of their own domestic league.

It’s a tricky balance since the Dutch have exciting young players such as Isabella Slim looking to explore the college route whilst other older and influential players such as Myrthe Beld and Marlou de Kleijn will be stepping out in the Spanish league this season.

Meanwhile Kourtney Treffers was just 17 years old when she moved to EuroLeague Women finalists Rivas Ecopolis last summer although it looks like she will now play in the Italian second division.

It’s a difficult situation for both the young Dutch players themselves and also for the Federation according to Spandauw.

“We must also support the many players who want to move to the other higher level European leagues and making sure they have a good reason and motivation to always come and play for the National team," he explained.

“But I think it’s also an important job for us to try and improve the level of our own women’s league in Holland too.”

The pride and success displayed by the youth teams this summer needs to now be maintained on an annual basis right through the youth ranks and into the senior national team.

That is down not only to each individual player, but also the Federation too. It’s a long time to have to maintain the momentum, but if, as I suspect, Rio comes around just a little too early for the current crop of rising stars, then a new target of the 2020 Olympic Games will for sure be an impressively realistic one.

For now though, everyone associated with Dutch basketball should simply pat themselves on the back and be satisfied with their truly excellent progress so far.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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« Reply #27 on: Sep 06, 2012, 12:50:16 AM »

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McCoughtry no angel but public assassination is over the top

If you believe what you read, you will seemingly struggle to find a more unpopular player in women’s basketball right now than USA Olympic champion, WNBA and EuroLeague Women star Angel McCoughtry.

Cast in a role decidedly more grotesque than mere pantomime villain for her part in the disintegration of the status-quo at Atlanta Dream where head coach Marynell Meadors was recently fired and the player given a suspension; the intensity of vitriol hurled towards McCoughtry has been unpalatable to say the least.

From ‘dislikeable diva’ to ‘disruptive’, ‘pouting’, ‘glaring’, ‘selfish’, ‘high-maintenance’ ‘highly strung’, you can take your pick from an array of insults and insinuations because, believe me, they have all been thrown at the player of late by fans and basketball writers / bloggers.

Even Olympic gold medal winning USA head coach Geno Auriemma somewhat surprisingly weighed into the controversy at the Dream by tweeting “@marynellmeaders gets fired atlanta owners cave in inmate in charge.” (sic)

As many people viewed this (rightly or wrongly) as potentially contributing to the public assassination of McCoughtry, Auriemma then hurriedly tweeted, “by the way..... i never mentioned any names #guiltyconscience”

But, he didn’t stop there, arguably reverting to his original stance with a further tweet stating,  “BTW i never said i had a guilty conscience the people who cost a good person their job certainly do #FACT” (sic)

But, I guess if you’re McCoughtry, you reap what you sow, right? Well, maybe, or maybe not.

With such an overwhelming number of anti-McCoughtry placards being waved, it was bound to have an effect on the player although speaking to her over the weekend, she seemed reasonably contrite about the entire situation.

"I do feel I'm a good person who is very misunderstood. I just like to win and sometimes too bad,” she said.

“I'm always going to give 100 percent, even though it comes across wrong sometimes.

“At the end of the day, I'm still 25 years old and learning about life’s experiences and lessons.

“This is one of many that has helped me grow as a person and become closer to God”
She added: “I thank all my fans for always supporting me and having my back.”

McCoughtry may well be unequivocally culpable when it comes to what has happened at the Dream. I really don’t know. Her words certainly don’t smack of someone who believes she hasn’t played her part. I guess only the player, the management, her team-mates and Marynell Meadors truly know what happened.

The real story for me in the past week or so hasn’t been a coach losing their job after a ‘bust-up’ with a star player who is accused by all and sundry of behaving like a ‘spoiled brat’ and committing the heinous crime of perpetuating ‘player power’.

Because, let’s face it, this scenario happens in just about every league and in just about every team sport all over the globe. It's what coaches and general managers the world over are paid to handle and deal with.

In modern day sport, the reality is that talent almost always out-trumps attitude with morality and good old-fashioned manners left on the side-lines. Some of the best teams in the world were packed with bad attitude where coaches and star players had the most fractious and volatile relationships possible.

The sad and equally unpalatable situation is that coaches sometimes do indeed ultimately become the losers in such scenarios, although occasionally, the players are shipped out instead. That’s always a tough decision for the owners of clubs. And hey, I am happy to be part of the coaching union, I appreciate it can be difficult.

The most intriguing element to this particular saga isn’t the alleged clash between player and coach, but those who have gleefully seized their chance to put the boot in and milk the saga by really twisting the knife.

Believe me, I am no apologist for Angel McCoughtry. By her own admission, there have, and probably always will be moments when things blow up and the toys are thrown from the pram/stroller.

But, whether she deserves criticism thrown at her or not, it has been the ‘baying mob mentality’ and determination of many to publicly hang McCoughtry since this issue blew up which has been a real eye-opener.

With outstanding talent often comes ego and attitude – it’s hardly a rare scenario. Although admittedly, McCoughtry has probably placed further pressure on herself to deliver now she is back on the floor again.

She returned to top score in the win against Connecticut with 24 points in just 19 minutes and, as the dark clouds slowly begin to blow away we can expect it probably won’t be the last storm involving the player during her career.

But, if you completely take away the drive, the apparent ego, the hatred of losing, the attitude issues and anything else noted during the last week, would McCoughtry still be the outstanding player she is?

I somehow doubt it.

Although don’t get me wrong, I do hope that she does sincerely learn from this episode and with age, experience and responsibility, comes a slightly more mature approach.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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« Reply #26 on: Aug 30, 2012, 02:51:17 AM »

Women Basketball Worldwide & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

Wouldn’t a USA-Japan final at the U17 Worlds Women be great ?

Coming to Amsterdam for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women, it was pretty clear who the top stars would be. But one surprise was awaiting: that Japan would be legitimate medal contenders – and making the thought of a United States-Japan final pretty enticing.

The USA remain the clear-cut favorites to win the title in the Netherlands, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they repeated their undefeated run to the gold from two summers ago at the inaugural U17 World Championship for Women. In fact, it would be a minor shock if anyone beats the Americans.

There are two players who really stand out for the Americans in Rebecca Greenwell and tournament MVP frontrunner Diamond DeShields.

Greenwell is a feel-good story after she came back strong from a torn ACL injury suffered last summer. The 2011 FIBA Americas U16 gold medalist and co-MVP has come back as a strong defender but mainly a great shooter and an extremely efficient player in the USA offense.

DeShields is the closest thing this tournament has to an über-star. The small forward’s athleticism gives the Americans a dynamic that no team can match – and one that none can stop either. And she’s showing the world exactly why she played the previous two summers with age groups three years older.

But it’s no surprise that Team USA is dominating teams – winning by more than 40 points per game as the highest scoring team and the team to allow the fewest per game.

Surprising has been the Japanese team, which powered their way to first place in Group B despite it having three European teams – including 2011 European U16 champions Spain and the hosts Netherlands – as well as traditionally strong Australia and always-talented Brazil.

Japan have an impressive group of interchangeable guards playing pesky but hard-nosed defense and shooting well from outside – led by Ai Yamada and Saori Miyazaki. And then there is the impressive low post duo of Yunika Nakamura and Evelyn Mawuli, both of whom are amazingly effective despite being undersized at 1.77m and 1.8cm, respectively.

One may look at the results and wonder how Australia could have blown out the Japanese by 34 points in the final group game. That’s because Japan had already booked the group victory before the game and head coach Shinichiro Hayashi pulled his starters after five minutes and a 15-0 lead.

With the USA and Japan both topping their groups, the earliest they could meet is Sunday's Final. And it would be great to see the two systems and styles clash.

While it would be a shock to see Japan knock off the USA, it would be a fascinating Final full of intrigue and suspense with a clash of systems and styles.

Here some other observers from Amsterdam…

- Belgian guard Hind Ben Abdelkader came into the tournament as one of the biggest prospects in Europe. But after averaging 27 points in her first two games against Mali and Korea and shooting 51 per cent from the field, Ben Abdelkader was shut down against Canada, the USA and Italy.

She averaged just 9.7 points on an abysmal 7-of-58 shooting (12 per cent) including just 2-of-32 (6 per cent) from inside the three-point line. If Ben Abdelkader does not get out of her woes she had best work on finding other open players or Belgium could see their three-game losing streak continue.

- The Dutch are on a three-game winning streak heading into Friday's Quarter-Finals and have shown that they have made huge strides in women’s basketball. One of the keys to the push forward has been the CTO program that the Netherlands Basketball Federation and National Olympic Committee created for women’s basketball three years ago. A number of players from the program – which has players between the ages of 15 and 21 practice twice a day – have already brought the Dutch to higher ground in Amsterdam. They include Laura Cornelius, Esther Fokke, Emese Hof, Isabella Slim and Britt Zappeij.

But now the Dutch must be careful. Having this kind of success – the U18 team also qualified for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women and the U20 team is into Quarter-Finals of the 2012 European Championship – the organizers cannot rest on their laurels but continue to work hard.

David Hein from FIBA

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« Reply #25 on: Aug 19, 2012, 10:32:12 PM »

Women Basketball Worldwide & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

Paralympic Women’s Basketball will be far more competitive than Olympics

It was around five o’clock in North Carolina and members of the USA Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball Team were in their hotel rooms watching their counterparts on the Olympic team cruise past France in the Final from London’s North Greenwich Arena. It wasn’t just to cheer them on; it was a chance to see the court on which they would be competing soon.

“It worked out perfectly that we could watch them win their fifth gold medal in a row right before our exhibition game tonight,” said Alana Nichols. “It couldn’t have been more motivating for us.”

Maybe it could have. Andrea Woodson-Smith knew what she wanted to see. She was waiting to see the USA women explode in the elation that comes with winning a gold medal game.

“I was waiting to see the end result, to see the team cheer in excitement and put their hands up in the air so I could get that same feeling when we go over there, but they didn’t.”

Can the fifth gold medal in a row get old? Probably not. More likely, it was just quiet satisfaction at completing their mission that muted their celebration.

Woodson-Smith was undeterred though in her sense of the excitement and thrill they must have enjoyed.

“I had that vision already and that feeling inside and that that’s our feeling right now; we’re going to feel that emotion.”
Shortly after the final whistle blew, they headed down for the ride over to the high school gym where they would play their last scrimmage before heading to London in two weeks. As the women ran through warm-up drills 45 minutes before tip-off, the empty stands began to fill.

On a night when the Carolina Panthers, the local NFL team, were playing their first pre-season game before tens of thousands, more than 500 people came out and bought a ticket to support a women’s wheelchair basketball team and send them off.

While lacking a bit on the defense that coaches like to see, the game featured all the elements that engaged the crowd from the start to a finish only decided in the last few seconds. It was a much better value than the football game.

While the Olympic women finished against France, the Paralympic team will open against them on August 30th at that same North Greenwich Arena.

“We haven’t seen their wheelchair team in a while,” said Nichols, a veteran of the Beijing gold medal team. It’s true. France didn’t play with the usual suspects in recent tune-up tournaments so it will be up to the defending champs to impose themselves early on.

If the pressure on the American Olympic women was just not losing in a tournament where their only true competition was Australia, that’s not the case for the wheelchair hoops team.

“There’s pressure this year because we’re so much younger,” says Woodson-Smith, “and there’s pressure because we have lost this year so people are looking to beat us because they’ve beaten us already.”

Germany, Australia, Canada, Great Britain; they’ve all taken a piece of the USA team in tournaments this year. That didn’t stop the bracketmasters in London from slotting the Americans in group play with the Germans, who they bested in the Beijing and most recent World Championship finals, along with China, Mexico, and France.

The other side has Australia, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. There are at least four, perhaps five teams in this tournament who are capable of hearing their national anthem at the end.

As for their youth, over half the American team is different from the one in Beijing but they are the current world champions and no less resolute.

“They think that we’re vulnerable but we know what our strengths are,” notes Woodson-Smith. “We know what we have to do in order to be able to win.”

And should the USA three-peat, you can be sure that her celebration will be anything but matter of fact.

Steve Goldberg from FIBA

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« Reply #24 on: Aug 17, 2012, 01:38:16 AM »

Women Basketball Worldwide & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

USA - An emotional high for Taurasi, Auriemma

There were plenty of enduring images from the women's Olympic basketball tournament in London, but perhaps none were more significant than the emotion-packed medal ceremony and post-game press conference for the United States.

Diana Taurasi, the player who is normally the life of the party after ripping opponents to shreds with her three-point shooting, her dazzling drives to the bucket and her hounding defense, cried in both.

It was unusual to see a pensive, reflective Taurasi walk slowly onto the court with her American teammates to receive a third gold in as many Olympics.

One who is still in her prime, everything seemed to dawn on Taurasi that eventually, all of this will end.

"You know, I usually don’t get very emotional when you win something, but for some reason when we walked into the arena afterwards, it kind of hit me that this might be my last, it might not be, but after three golds, they’re really hard," Taurasi said.

For a long time in the Semi-Final, it seemed USA Basketball might fall short of their fifth consecutive gold in the women’s tournament.

The Australians were brilliant, riding the back of Elizabeth Cambage, who had 19 points in the first half.

In the third quarter, the Americans were still losing when Taurasi charged into Belinda Snell for her fourth foul and had to leave the game.

Thankfully for the United States, they had Lindsay Whalen.

She entered the game and scored six straight points, including four on jump shots, to put the USA in front to stay.

If it might be the last hurrah on the Olympic stage for Taurasi, it almost certainly is for her college coach, University of Connecticut boss Geno Auriemma, since the USA women have had coaches work in four-year cycles.

In his time at the helm of the national team, Auriemma guided the team to a world title and Olympic gold.

Auriemma had a lot of fun coaching the USA women, and he even enjoyed his post-game press conferences.

His comments were more times than not laced with humor, as was the case after Team USA’s 114-66 preliminary victory over China when reporters were told just before his opening remarks that the American women had equaled their Olympic record for points scored in a game and had also set new marks with assists (33) and baskets (52).

"And this is my 100th Coca-Cola," Auriemma said, drawing laughs.

People will remember Auriemma and Taurasi showing up for their title-game press conference, after the win over France, because they had already shed plenty of tears.

“I wouldn’t want to be up here with anyone else,” Taurasi said.

“Coach (Auriemma) knows me more than any person on this earth, including my family, so it means a lot.”


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« Reply #23 on: Aug 13, 2012, 07:46:38 PM »

Women Basketball Worldwide & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

Ghost of 1992 continues to rest for imperious USA

Twenty years and five gold medals later, it seems an eternity since the USA last tasted Olympic defeat way back in 1992, a moment which Russian star Elena Baranova vividly recalls.

Having watched USA put France into a no-holds barred choke-hold right from the tip-off in London to facilitate an Olympic Final demolition built on a ruthless and brutal efficiency so typical of a true champion team, it raised a couple of notable questions.

Namely, just how good is the current USA side and could any other team playing in London have realistically beaten them?

There’s probably nobody better qualified to start the debate than Baranova who is the only non-USA Olympic champion still active at the professional level. She played over 100 games for the national team and once poured in a stunning and Olympic record-breaking 37 points against Japan in 1996.

Two decades ago, the fresh-faced 20-year-old was just breaking into the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) team which beat the USA 79-73 during the Semi-Finals – something which has since proven a watershed moment for USA women’s basketball.

“If you ask me about the USA team of 1992 and 2012, they are incomparable because basketball has changed – it’s become more individual and athletic,” explained the forward.

“Now, there are neither the cunning factors nor team play to decide games, but mainly speed and strength and perhaps not even the skills.

“The other thing is the whole world now plays this kind of basketball and the USA team always has an advantage because it consists of pro-players who play top roles in the WNBA and have individual advantage over other players in all positions on court, with no exceptions – the coaching position included.”

“During 1992, we beat them with team play and tactics. Any other team was only going to get a chance in London if they followed our way.”

“We had the team spirit. All of us came out with a single thought to win because we obviously had no other chance to make the final. And, this team spirit was the reason we didn’t make too many serious mistakes during the game.”

She added: “To prove the game has changed so much since then, we would have laughed in 1992 if somebody had told us that 20 years later, the Russian National team would have an American born player and we wouldn’t have enough talents ourselves. None of us would have either understood or accepted this.”

As the USA, French and Australian players sit clutching their respective medals as the aeroplane wheels lift up at Heathrow airport during coming days, I really hope they truly treasure and cherish their accomplishments.

For it is inspiring to hear the passion with which three-time Olympian Baranova still talks about both Barcelona and the event in general.

“It’s still the number one sporting event in the world and nothing could ever be compared with it," she said.

"The feeling that you get when you represent your motherland, a  huge country with great traditions. This kind of Olympic pride you should never forget.

“The post game memories of 1992 are the clearest, when the game tension finally died down and we could celebrate our win over USA.

“I especially remember the men’s ‘Dream Team’ players such as Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing all coming to the semi-final to support USA who were the favourites.”

As Baranova sheds light on those pivotal moments from 20 years ago, it throws up further questions and perhaps the most pertinent of all - when will I next be able to talk to an 'active', non-USA Olympic champion?

Some have suggested the long-term dominance of the USA could be a problem since it dilutes the entertainment of an Olympic event. I disagree wholeheartedly.

Even if they are the favourites for the next 100 years, the ‘what if’ question means on their day, any team might just do it and this in itself is fascinating.

Equally, when you look at a podium topping team destroy the silver medallists in such convincing fashion as USA did yesterday, you just have to drool over almost every aspect of their play.

Congratulations to Geno and Co, that was simply awesome.
And, scanning the horizon towards Rio, it looks like it could be quite a long time before another 'Barcelona-esque' ghost pops up.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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« Reply #22 on: Aug 07, 2012, 09:00:35 PM »

Women Basketball Worldwide & Free Comments • Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres

No high fives from me after Cambage dunk

It pains me a little that one dunk in Olympic Women’s Basketball gets more attention than anything else, whether it be the astonishing multi-Olympic record the USA currently sits on, or, some of the absolutely wonderful games we have witnessed in London.
Don’t get me wrong, huge credit to Liz Cambage. She is a phenomenal prospect very much destined to be a truly great player for Australia. Indeed she is already rolling in that particular direction and will continue racking up winners medals and personal accolades for both club and country.
Only I already fear that the defining moment of her career, whatever she achieves, will be a 20-second ‘youtube’ clip of so-called ‘Olympic basketball history’.
And, that’s just plain wrong.
I hope she one day doesn’t get that same feeling some television personalities or movie actors get when they become sick and tired of the media asking them to talk about that one ‘famous’ scene or moment on screen - when they were really great actors with so many other great achievements far more interesting and noteworthy.
Such things can be a blessing but they can also be a curse.
I admit I smiled when Liz threw it down although I didn’t feel myself going particularly overboard about the dunk because I was already engrossed in the game, one which was another hugely entertaining and absorbing contest.
Some people tasked with promoting the women’s game will probably want to throw things at me for trying to rain on the parade. But believe me, I’m not. I’d happily wear a t-shirt with the slogan ‘Don’t diss the dunk.’
The issue is that whilst dunks in the women’s game may appear sexy if you’re in marketing - and I am sure sponsors for example will love it - please read the small print.
For me, it’s a false economy and people clicking on social media sites all over the world during forthcoming days, weeks, months and years to watch it aren’t going to suddenly become women’s basketball fans.
It would be bordering on false advertising to really milk the dunk by Cambage since it isn’t something fans are able see on a regular basis - or even on a sporadic basis for that matter.
The one element which did genuinely fascinate me though was Cappie Pondexter @cappa23 tweeting “Just witnessed @ecambage dunk! The women's game is changing! I love it.”
Or, perhaps that debate is something of a watching brief in the medium term.
Right now though, these rare and admittedly enjoyable dunks are only skin-deep. The true beauty of women’s basketball is what lies beneath the highlights reel.
Specifically the passion, dedication, the actual games themselves and the players taking part. Female athletes with a supremely high level of skill – just like Cambage.
Women’s basketball needs to have the confidence and belief that people are streaming out of the Olympic Basketball Arena talking about the gut-wrenching tension of overtime, that three-point shot which won the game and all the other things which have made people fall in love with basketball down the years.
The dunk should be a beautiful footnote to another beautiful day in London.
I am convinced families will have been sat around the kitchen table over dinner talking about the Olympic basketball tournament and why Great Britain got so near and yet so far from a historic win.
I am sure the young girl visiting The Games was sat on the train heading back to her hotel in central London asking her mum where the local women’s basketball team plays back home.
It may have indeed been because she saw Cambage dunk but I suspect this young girl will have also fallen in love with many of the same things as I did.
That’s why I have vowed that whenever I come across someone searching for, or already watching the dunk by Cambage online in the future, I will insist on showing them other clips of women’s basketball.
I will start with Birsel Vadarli and her one-handed assist for Fenerbahce, the one-handed and off balance three-point buzzer-beater for Turkey in the Semi-Final of EuroBasket Women against France last year which was followed by a mesmerising play at the hoop next time down the floor.

Yes, please, please don’t forget everyone - there’s more to celebrate in women’s basketball than a nice dunk by Liz Cambage - even if it was the first in Olympic history.
In fact, more importantly than anything else, there’s more to celebrate about Liz Cambage than the first dunk by a woman in Olympic basketball history.
Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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« Reply #21 on: Aug 01, 2012, 01:11:17 AM »

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Veteran ‘glue’ is key to medal prospects

As fans and media, we should collectively hold our hands up, guilty as charged. For I fear we continue to give far too much attention to the headline acts who seduce us with their stats while simultaneously shunning those players who rarely dazzle with points, rebounds or assists but in reality, make teams tick.
Yes, those players who are the first names on the roster for each respective coach and when you throw in the additional element of veteran experience, provide the ‘glue’ which will hold together some of the most serious medal contenders in London.
It’s an essential ingredient for success. And, while that is always the case at any tournament, I feel it will be an overriding feature in London. In particular for Russia and Australia who each have a great shot at making the Final and, on their day, could even upset red-hot favourites USA.
Ironically it is the absence of two veterans in Maria Stepanova and Svetlana Abrosimova which places an additional emphasis on one such ‘glue’ player in the shape of Olga Arteshina – a real favourite player of mine.
Had the legendary Stepanova not been ruled out due to a knee injury, she would have racked up her fifth Olympic appearance having first stepped out in Atlanta. Abrosimova meanwhile was the somewhat surprise omission by Russia head coach Boris Sokolovsky.
Questions have been asked as to whether Russia are a) going through a transitional phase, b) losing their mojo or c) on the verge of another successful era and capable of chasing down the USA. A year ago at the start of EuroBasket Women it looked like b) but they went on to win gold and now, with a strong showing in the British capital, it could be c).
That is, if Olga Arteshina is her usual combative and influential self. I simply love watching her play and if Russia is indeed a question waiting to be answered, then she will inevitably be the part of the solution.
Arteshina is the constant and I implore you to watch her closely as she gleefully gauges on the intangibles, gets in the face of her opponents, makes the occasional big shot during the game and does a tireless amount of the dirty work both on and off the ball.
Without Stepanova and Abrosimova, I suspect Russia will lean on Arteshina even more than usual and I expect she will just take on the additional burden without any fuss and continue to do what she does best.
While the graceful EuroBasket Women MVP Elena Danilochkina will almost permanently be in the lens of most courtside cameras, Arteshina will be quietly going about her essential business somewhere else on the floor, much to the considerable annoyance of her opponents.
Similarly, I think Belinda Snell will be of critical importance to Australia as the Opals try to shore up the loss of Penny Taylor, another injury victim. Of course the legendary Lauren Jackson is a veteran too now but we know and explicitly appreciate she has the all-round skills to win any game, especially on the big occasions.
Small forward Snell flies just under the radar more often than not, especially in the past with Jackson, Taylor and Liz Cambage around. But, she has vast experience and does that absolutely crucial little bit of everything, just like Arteshina.
In fact, she could probably even argue that she's more than just a ‘glue’ player with her last four Olympic Games appearances all finishing with a double digit score. Picking up from where she left off in Beijing would be a terrific boost to the Opals.
Even Turkey who is in the top five or six (as far as the bookmakers are concerned) to grab a medal are a good example. The twin towers of Nevriye Yilmaz and Kuanitra Holingsworth hog the limelight along with playmaker Birsel Vadarli who won the Tissot Turkish Player Of The Tournament award at the recent Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
But, to my own shame, I have rarely given sufficient credence to the contribution of Saziye Ivegin, a veteran who is more than just the three-point shooter I had previously labelled her.
She is of course a potent threat from downtown but as she matures, the sheer number of minutes she is handed and subsequent hard work she gets through is monumentally impressive.
So, for sure, let’s celebrate game changers like Lauren Jackson, Elena Danilochkina and Birsel Vardarli, but let’s also raise our glasses to toast the true engine room of these podium chasing teams.
To describe the likes of Arteshina, Snell and Ivegin as merely ‘blue-collar’ workers would be a backhanded compliment - they are so much more than that.

And, let's face it, without these ‘glue’ players doing what is likely to be another great job for their respective teams; Russia, Australia and Turkey would surely find themselves in an altogether more sticky situation in their quest to land a coveted Olympic medal.
Paul Nilsen from FIBA

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