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Author Topic: ¶ Women Basketball Worldwide Stories & Free Comments • Del Baloncesto Femenino Universal & Comentarios Libres  (Read 389532 times)
WBC Deborah Volger
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« Reply #50 on: Jun 18, 2015, 11:02:09 PM »

Women Basketball Worldwide Stories & Free Comments
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Weekend eBA Basketball Magazine

Fascinating first stage of EuroBasket Women 2015

Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide
The first phase of EuroBasket Women 2015 is in the books and there have been plenty of talking points thrown up in an exciting start to the tournament.

The biggest surprise for me has been Croatia battling through some horrific injury and personnel problems to win the two games needed to progress to the second phase. It has been reminiscent of 2011 when they had similar problems (although this time it is even worse) and made it all the way to fifth spot.

Asking for a repeat finish is wholly unrealistic and it is a minor miracle they have got this far. Huge respect must be given to head coach Braslav Turic in his first major tournament and also to his players - especially Iva Borovic,
who is another first-timer at the event and has been superb.

Also huge congratulations are due to Iva Ciglar who not only made some tough plays down the stretch of the must-win game against Great Britain, ......

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...... but has now passed the landmark set by retired legend Sandra Mandir for assists at EuroBasket Women tournaments..


EuroBasket Women 2015 ~ Croatia v Great Britain... by eBAsketball


It was also nice to see former players Anda Jelavic, Ana Lelas, Antonija Misura and Marija Rezan all with the supporters during the first phase to support their country.

I previously wrote off Slovak Republic and Greece in terms of any chance of progressing to the last stage, but I am thrilled for two excellent coaches in Maros Kovacik and George Dikeoulakos that they have progressed to the Second Round.

The passion of Kovacik is all-consuming and I know those in Sopron loved watching him on the sidelines and the way his team performed - almost beating reigning champions Spain in addition to wins against Sweden and Lithuania.

Meanwhile Coach Dikeoulakos has to be the one coach in European basketball who really could squeeze blood out of a stone. He always gets the maximum out of the players he has at his disposal and he showed why Fenerbahce are fortunate to have him back at the helm for next season.

Latvia and Sweden were arguably the biggest casualties of those nations who were sent home early. It’s a real pity for the tournament since both brought a big number of fans along and each country was hoping they might make a run.

Iva Borovic (CRO) - Croatia v Great Britain, 2015 EuroBasket Women, Szombathely - Savaria Arena (Hungary), Group Phase - First Round, 15 June 2015. In this Photograph from FIBA presented by eBA Stats Basketball Statistics Analysis .

Photograph: FIBA


Sweden were always a little short-handed in terms of top talent after the withdrawl of Amanda Zahui and Farhiya Abdi which may have made a difference, but ultimately they just lost a couple of tight ones. They would have expected to win against Slovak Republic and Lithuania and on another day, may well have done so. This will hurt after their adventure two years ago in France when they got to the Quarter Finals.

Latvia played one poor game and paid the penalty. They were abject against injury-struck Croatia and as feared, it came back to haunt them. What made it most painful is that they were eliminated the day after raucous celebrations which accompanied their historic first ever win against Russia.

More disappointing is that I spoke with both Gunta Basko-Melnbarde and Anete Jekabsone after the game and both talked about how beating Russia had given them such a lift and justified their decision to come out of retirement.

I don't think any of us truly thought they would have potentially played their last game and it is regretful that such a landmark victory meant nothing in the context of the tournament ......


...... and their respective international careers have probably ended while sat in a hotel on the outskirts of Szombathely.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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BGA Sandra Mirsov
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« Reply #49 on: Jan 03, 2015, 12:17:20 AM »

Women Basketball Worldwide Stories & Free Comments
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Weekend eBA Basketball Magazine

My memories of 2014

Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide
It has not been a vintage year for women's basketball and it's with a heavy heart that I prepare to enter 2015 with the women's game at a low ebb. It's something I will probably expand on during coming weeks.

Still, there have been some highlights from 2014 - a year which in general, was wholly forgettable. Nevertheless, here are my top personal moments of the year and in no particular order.

Salvadores in Pilsen
There was no better individual display at any level than the phenomenal effort of Spanish starlet Angela Salvadores. I was already a big fan, but now she is one of my favourite players by far. She scored 40 points in the Final of the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women in Pilsen against the USA and almost led her side to victory.

A black belt in karate with a steely stare that could turn an opponent to stone, she balances this hard-nosed approach with the poise of a ballerina and hand of a deadly basketball assassin. It was a display that left everyone drooling over her talent and several months on - it still brings a smile to my face.

The inspirational Lauren Hill
After being diagnosed with brain cancer and with her life turned upside down, Lauren Hill still achieved her dream of playing college basketball. Just watching and listening to the ESPN documentary on the Mount St Joseph player was inspiring and I have to say, gave me a lump in my throat and tears of which I have rarely had before in a sporting context.

What an inspirational story of dealing with adversity - in life and not basketball, although in Lauren's case, she underlined how important basketball and this sport we all adore can actually be in someone's life.

Ekrem Memnun and Isil Alben
This will be remembered for Galatasaray odeabank making history and becoming the first Turkish team to triumph in EuroLeague Women and obviously for the first time in their own history. The two things that I will remember most are seeing head coach Ekrem Memnun climbing into the media tribune holding his daughter en-route to the jubilant supporters and giving me the opportunity to not only congratulate him, but take my favourite photo of the year as he held his daughter with mutual pride and love.

At that precise moment, I remembered a year earlier in the same arena, when it was a disaster for him and his team. I will also remember the contribution of Isil Alben. It may not have grabbed the headlines with the amazing Alba Torrens shining brightly, but the control and offensive rebounding of Alben was outstanding in the semi-final win against UMMC and in the final.

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It underlined the journey she has been on, which many years ago, had actually witnessed some fans questioning her ability to contribute effectively for the Istanbul giants.


Angela Salvadores (ESP). USA v Spain. 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women, Pilsen (Czech Republic). Day 10, Final. In this Photograph from FIBA presented by eBA Stats Basketball Statistics Analysis .

Image: FIBA



Carolina Bernadeco and her big heart
I can't remember feeling quite so emotional at any basketball game and I have been to a few over the years. Having wrongly allowed the shot clock to tick down at the end of the game when her team were actually losing and not winning (she got the score mixed up), Portugal playmaker Carolina Bernadeco was distraught.

Feeling like she let her team and family down in front of an unprecedented youth crowd of 3,000 in her home nation at the U18 European Championship Women, she fled to the locker rooms. Several minutes later the young playmaker returned to the floor with her head held high to the kind of reception and cheers I had never heard at youth level before. Bravo Carolina!

Ulker Arena and Turkish hospitality
I absolutely loved the Ulker Arena which hosted the latter stages of the FIBA World Championship for Women and it became probably my favourite place to watch basketball.

It is an outstanding facility and combined with the warmth and hospitality of the Turkish Federation and volunteers, the off court organisation, friendliness and amazing venue compensated for disappointing action on the court.

Salvadores behind the scenes in Matosinhos
As everyone else partied at the end of the U18 European Championship Women in Matosinhos at the end of the tournament, my abiding memory of the year is a glum Salvadores pacing around on the court in half darkness. Working courtside and with few other people around, I had the privilege of seeing a born-winner in those moments, reflecting on why she didn't win the tournament title against the backdrop of music and celebrations in an adjacent gym. Third place isn't what Salvadores is about.

As a class act surely destined to become an elite level player and Olympian, I will always look back on this moment before that super night in Pilsen. For what I witnessed in Matosinhos long after most people had gone home, is what truly sets true winners apart.

FIBA Coaching instructor Nelson Isley
Isley is a true ambassador for the women's game wherever he goes around the globe (and he goes to every corner). Being able to cement and build on our friendship (basically talking for hours and hours about women's basketball) made the year special.

As did meeting so many other of you guys from the women's basketball family who truly appreciate, value and understand the game - as well as the challenges which both persist and even bigger ones which inevitably lie in wait.


Finally, my respects to those that we sadly lost during 2014 from the women's basketball family.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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BGA J.J. Diaz
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« Reply #48 on: Dec 20, 2014, 12:29:22 AM »

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Weekend eBA Basketball Magazine

Spain to host first-ever
FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in 2018

FIBA on Tuesday announced that Spain will host the first-ever FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2018.

Spain and Israel presented the two bids shortlisted to host the biggest women’s basketball tournament.

Twenty three of the 26 members making up FIBA's Central Board voted. Eighteen were in favour of Spain's bid, while five backed that of Israel.

"We would like to thank both Spain and Israel for submitting outstanding bids and giving us every reason to believe they would host a first-class event and make it a great success for all concerned," said FIBA Secretary General and International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member Patrick Baumann.

The Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) has past experience of hosting a leading FIBA world event as it staged this past summer's FIBA Basketball World Cup.

In recent years, FEB has developed a strong women's national team programme which has produced great results, ...  

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... including winning EuroBasket Women 2013 and finishing runners-up at the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.


Spain (ESP) at the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women 
In this image from FIBA presented by eBA Stats Basketball Statistics Analysis .

Image: FIBA



A glittering array of stars have taken to social media to express their excitement at Spain being announced as hosts of the inaugural FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in 2018.

Coaches, players and legends have all been taking to social media to express their delight at the announcement, which will give Spain another chance to host a maiden tournament - having hosted the first-ever FIBA Basketball World Cup earlier this year.

One of the main focuses in the build-up to the biggest women's basketball event is likely to be the ambassadorial role of the legendary Amaya Valdemoro, who rather aptly was one of the first to convey her approval on Twitter as she expressed her congratulations.

Current national team play-caller Lucas Mondelo who led the team to a historic EuroBasket Women title this year and then to a similarly landmark first appearance in the recent FIBA World Championship for Women Final, also took time to hail the announcement.


He described the outcome as great news and was quick to recognise the efforts of those behind the bid, for all of their hard work.

 FIBA



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WBC Deborah Volger
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« Reply #47 on: Dec 08, 2013, 12:06:55 AM »

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

An eye towards EuroBasket Women 2015 (Part I)

Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide
Half of the spots for EuroBasket Women 2015 are already taken and now the remaining 11 nations know exactly what they need to do if they want to join the party.

There are six additional spots compared to the 2013 version, which I think makes qualification next summer even more exciting since the so-called 'lesser' teams can suddenly smell the stronger possibilities.

I think there could be a narrowing of the gap in this respect and if the 'non-favourites' in each qualifying group get some good preparation under their respective belts and a full compliment of players, we could be seeing
some new faces at Final Round in 2015.

There is also the undeniable fact that from top to bottom, Europe remains the most competitive zone in terms of qualification for its own flagship tournament.

Group A places Poland, Slovenia, Luxembourg and the Slovak Republic together. The only guarantee is that Luxembourg will finish bottom of the pile, although they will be looking to improve by being more competitive than ever.

With only the group winners guaranteed to advance, it looks like Slovak Republic and Poland will be favourites, maybe the former just shading it, but this is the one group where personnel matters. None of these three nations seem to have got their strongest roster out in recent times and that makes a difference.

Slovak Republic play-caller Maros Kovacik has made a name for himself in EuroLeague Women with Good Angels Kosice, but I suspect will find this a different prospect altogether. He will be nervous I am quite sure, because he is carrying the hopes of the nation on his shoulders and his team won’t be expected to miss out.

Much could hinge on whether the younger players can step up and if they can deliver. Talent and potential is one thing, application at the elite level is quite another and so Barbora Balintova, Zsofia Hruscakova, Beata Janoscikova and Martina Kissova have to perform (if selected) alongside established senior players like the brilliantly understated Lucia Kupcikova.

Jacek Winnicki took a short-handed Poland to the Final of the First Qualification Round but lost to Greece and if he gets some players back, he could fancy his chances.

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Although not selecting players such as Justyna Zurowska was from the outside at least, quite baffling - especially with something of an injury crisis.


Veteran Merike Anderson, in this photograph,  will lead the Estonians, whilst Ieva Krastina and Anete Steinberga will probably propel Latvia and Portugal need to look to their impressive junior teams for inspiration after misfiring badly at senior level in recent years. In this photograph by Ilmar Saaba from Delfi Sport presented by #eBAStatsGroup #BasketballStatistics Analysis .
Photograph: Delfi Sport



Slovenia were on course for France at one point last year, but a bizarre and horrific sequence of serious injuries blew their chances out of the water. They have some very capable players in their early to mid-20s such as Nika Baric, Teja Oblak and Tina Trebec for example, but must perform collectively and if the more senior players commit, then they could be in business.

Great Britain and Lithuania both competed at EuroBasket Women 2013 and will face Belgium and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (MKD) in Group B and this looks completely open to me.

The pressure to deliver is on Great Britain because of the scrutiny placed on them from the sports funders in the UK. Damian Jennings did a magnificent job in his rookie tournament in France and this will be the acid test for him, since Lithuania will be tough and Belgium are a complete wild card.

I say this because with former FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year and WNBA participant Emma Meesseman, they could be a real force. Without her, they are just not the same team at this level, although still not to be under-estimated.

And, if Meesseman does suit up, you could justifiably make a case for Belgium, Great Britain and Lithuania being genuine co-favourites with absolutely nothing between them!

Italy reached the Quarter-Finals in France and will be favourites in Group C against Portugal, a young Latvian side and also Estonia, who will relish having a couple of derby games for some additional fire in their stomachs.

A lot of neutrals loved the play of Italy in France because they were so central to some of the biggest drama. They also played with such admirable heart and have some quality players, if not real depth. Young Francesca Dotto is a super young player and one to keep watching.

Veteran Merike Anderson will lead the Estonians, whilst Ieva Krastina and Anete Steinberga will probably propel Latvia and Portugal need to look to their impressive junior teams for inspiration after misfiring badly at senior level in recent years.

It will be interesting to see how far down the age ladder they reach this time and a pity that Maria Kostourkova is 1997-born and next summer could be a little too soon for her at senior level - or maybe not. She certainly looks to be a real name for the future.


Next time, I look forward to scanning the three remaining groups.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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HBC Debby Telmes
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« Reply #46 on: Nov 10, 2013, 12:01:10 AM »

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

Weekend eBA Basketball Magazine: During EuroLeague Women this Week
EuroCup Women can move out of the shadows

The spotlight will understandably be placed on EuroLeague Women this week, but that is not to say that EuroCup Women should be left overshadowed by its more illustrious sister competition.

As with most years, EuroCup Women will have some exceptionally talented players stepping out and there are some teams that would actually grace Euroleague Women, not least, defending champions WBC Dynamo Moscow.

They now belatedly have USA guard Lindsay Whalen in situ and former WNBA MVP Tina Charles to follow. Whalen exploded on debut last weekend in the Moscow derby against Spartak M.R. Vidnoje, dropping 30 points in a dramatic one point win.

I am assuming that it will be Whalen and Charles who are utilised, since the third non-European Kristi Toliver could be an alternative option, having been a driving force behind their podium topping success last year.

There are also several Russian players who have senior national team experience at Dynamo, including Nadezhda Grishaeva, Irina Sokolovskaya and Tatiana Vidmer.

Serbian swingman Ana Dabovic has been brought in, having played in the Russian League a few years ago at Dynamo-GUVD Novosibirsk, although she has had a sluggish start.

Talking of Serbians and slow starts, Jelena Milovanovic was one of the big names to be snapped up by the ambitious Dynamo Kursk - champions of the competition a couple of seasons ago. The forward arrived along with plenty of other big names players including Candice Dupree, Oleksandra Kurasova, Rebekkah Brunson and Shay Doron, who join established stars like Epiphanny Prince.

Kursk will be eager to get some potential light relief from EuroCup Women this week, having made an awful start to their Russian Premier League campaign, with their latest setback a 20-point home-floor capitulation against Nadezhda Orenburg.

The result heaps pressure on beleaguered play-caller Alfredas Vainauskas who presided over the shambolic EuroBasket Women title defense of the Russian national team a few months ago - something which the coach has apparently refused to discuss with the Federation.

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And, the inevitable happened as the Lithuanian was fired by Kursk and replaced this week by Bo Overton.


Rebekkah Brunson #32 celebrates with Monica Wright #22 while with Minnesota Lynx from the WNBA ... In this photograph by Jesse Johnson from Sports Page Magazine presented by eBA Stats Basketball Statistics Analysis
Photograph: Sports Page Magazine



Aside from Russian title-chasers, there are some potential challengers for the title from Turkey and France. Indeed it would certainly be a surprise to me if the winner came from outside of those three nations.

Perhaps the dark horse could be Villeneuve d’Ascq. They sit proudly unbeaten at the top of the French League with a 6-0 record, locked together with EuroLeague Women participants Tango Bourges.

They have the defensive prowess and organisational skills of the ever-impressive Swedish guard Elin Eldebrink and also the brilliant former FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year Emma Meesseman, who has just returned from her premature WNBA season debut. French shooting guard Johanne Gomis can put points on the board and if veteran American Lenae Williams is on-song, the sky is the limit.

Also in with a big chance of going far are Istanbul Universitesi. The newcomers are already showing their hand as title challengers domestically in the TKBL with a strong opening. On talent alone, they look as good as anyone, maybe even co-favourites with Dynamo Moscow and Dynamo Kursk.

They also possess a EuroLeague Women level quality roster, including USA forward Crystal Langhorne who won the title last year and was immense. She will line-up alongside Russian veteran Irina Osipova.

There is instant offence from Romanian national team star Gabriella Marginean and also Shenise Johnson, who had a big first season in Europe playing in EuroLeague Women last year with UE Sopron. They don't lack experience either, with Israeli guard Liron Cohen and Turkish vets Nilay Karteltepe and Tugba Palazoglu all gracing the backcourt.

Lastly, one of the main and fun reasons to watch and follow EuroCup Women again this season is to check out the usual selection of teenagers taking to the floor and cutting their teeth in the competition.

Many will be following on from some huge names who have played in the tournament and I am especially looking forward to seeing if rising stars can make their name - players like 1996-born Belgian ace Julie Allemand, who might play for new entrants Wallonia Basket.


I am looking forward to it every bit as much as EuroLeague Women !

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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« Reply #45 on: Oct 05, 2013, 11:14:05 PM »

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

Cuba continues surprise outcome trend of 2013

Even though Cuba have a relatively good heritage within the women's game, the fact they reached the top of the poidum at the FIBA American Championship for Women was still an upset of sorts.

For 2013 still revels in upsets, both in the men and women's international game, and it's something we should really cherish.

And with the FIBA Asia Championship for Women still to come, maybe this calendar year isn't quite done just yet with surprises!

I am sure most of us like an underdog in any tournament and whilst such a description is perhaps stretching it a little bit with specific regard to the Cubans, it was still a nice story for the women's game to see them grab gold and for the outstanding Yamara Amargo to be crowned MVP in Xalapa, Mexico.

I say outstanding because she really is such a force and influence on the team and proved a nightmare to guard because of her size and strength inside and her sweet shooting touch. That allowed her to regularly drift to the perimeter and knock down triples with unerring accuracy.

Interestingly and a tad ironically, it was the absence of Amargo in the decisive game which spoke volumes about Cuba.

She didn't play in the monumental Semi-Final against Brazil which sealed their place at the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women and ensured we will have a wonderful bit of Cuban flavour to the proceedings in Turkey next year.

Despite being without their marquee player, the rest of the team showed quite unanimously they are no 'one-woman' show.

Having squandered a huge lead against the tournament co-favourites, it looked like Brazil would complete the comeback and they were riding on the crest of a wave into crunch time. Lesser teams than Cuba would have crumbled.

But, showcasing tremendous mental strength, the Cuban team responded to the answer posed by Brazil and rejoiced as they took their place for Turkey 2014.

That positive mental attitude and hard-nosed approach was also evident during the Final. It would have been easy for Cuba to have patted themselves on the back and settled for silver.

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Not a bit of it.


Marlen Cepeda plus veteran duo Oyanaisy Gelis and Leidys Oquendo are also very important too for Cuba and I look forward to seeing this quintet at the Worlds.Here, the player of Cuba Oyanaisy Gelis (#7) drives the ball brand of American Candice Wiggins (#5). Photograph: EFE
Photograph: kint.com



They peppered holes in the previously impregnable Canadian defense to great effect and with Amargo back on board and the excellent Clenia Noblet (who I thought was very, very unfortunate not to get a slot in the All-Tournament Team), they completed not exactly a fairytale, but a mild shock for sure.

Marlen Cepeda plus veteran duo Oyanaisy Gelis and Leidys Oquendo were also very important too and I look forward to seeing this quintet at the Worlds.

Canada may have missed out on gold, but the silver lining for them was that they achieved their main objective and now go into their next tournament off the back of a loss and with an ever-so-slightly bitter taste in their mouths.

Perhaps that won't necessarily be a bad thing when they hit the floor in Istanbul or Ankara.

One slight off-night across six games is nothing to worry about and Cuba did have the extra motivation of avenging their loss earlier in the competition.

Overall, Lisa Thomaidis can be very satisfied with her first major tournament and a silver is better than the bronze which has been hung around Canadian necks in recent times.

Kim Gaucher did a good job and made the All-Tournament Team, 17-year-old playmaker Kia Nurse didn't look out of place at all and both Tamara Tatham and Natalie Achonwa enhanced their reputations with some powerful performances - especially the latter, who is still only 20 years old by the way.

Finally, Brazil were left breathing a huge sigh of relief and I was thrilled for them in making it to the World because not doing so simply didn't even bare thinking about - or at least in the context of the 2016 Olympics.

To head to Rio with nothing but another FIBA Americas Championship for Women tournament under their belts would have been a near-disaster and under-cooking this young team horribly.


Now they can get that precious global tournament experience they need and the master-plan ahead of hosting the Games in three years remains safely on track - even if it was almost derailed.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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« Reply #44 on: Jun 16, 2013, 12:00:37 AM »

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

Rising stars looking to impress at EuroBasket Women

There have been many young players over past decades who have announced their arrival on the big stage by debuting at the elite level at EuroBasket Women

With the action at EuroBasket Women 2013 set to unfold in France this weekend, a new batch of young hopefuls are all looking to shine in what will be their first major tournament at senior level. Some of those who you might want to look out for include:

Queralt Casas (Spain) has always shown a winner's mentality, clinching a medal in every one of her youth championships, including gold last summer.

She enjoyed an impressive debut season in EuroLeague Women with Rivas Ecopolis with a string of eye-catching displays. She's absolutely electric, has amazingly quick hands and can come off the bench to grab key steals and finish off plays in transition.

Team-mate Laura Gil is the most decorated female Spanish player in history due to her unprecedented medal haul at youth level which culminated in gold alongside Casas at the 2012 U20 European Championship. She's a very mobile and smart center who executes well and also finishes well at the hoop.

Ieva Krastina (Latvia) had the second best three-point percentage in the Qualification Round, but is more than just an outside threat. She's really improved the effectiveness of her passing which can exploit any additional defensive attention given in France. Indeed if she handles the ball more in the future, the sky could be the limit for her as a combo guard.

Fellow Latvian Anete Steinberga is a University of Texas El-Paso (UTEP) graduate who was one of only four players in school history to amass over 1,000 points, win championships, earn All-Conference USA honours and even establish a school record for a staggering 23 consecutive double-digit points hauls. She will be hoping to transfer her post moves, rebounding prowess and ability to run the floor.

Tereza Vyoralova (Czech Republic) has been given a quicker than expected route to senior duty with the likes of veteran legends Hana Horakova and Eva Viteckova missing. With scoring power on the wing, she is expected to be a long term successor.

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The guard hails from a basketball family with her dad Vladimir Vyoral, having won a silver medal for Czechoslovakia at the European Championship in 1985.


eBA Weekend Basketball Magazine
Photograph from Baloncesto AS



You can't ignore the rapid development of the small forward Valeriane Ayayi (France) who has had a spectacular 12 months, including making history when she won a first gold for France at last year's U18 European Championship Women. She then recorded a great first season in the LFB with Basket Landes, including a brilliant rookie campaign in EuroCup Women. She will lead her country at the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women later this summer.

Fellow Les Bleues forward Diandra Tchatchouang will celebrate her 22nd birthday on the eve of EuroBasket Women and the best present is being on the roster after missing out on Olympic action. Powerful and mobile in equal measure, she's now delivering at a level which she hinted at reaching during a glittering youth career which harvested plenty of personal accolades. She gained numerous plaudits in the NCAA with Maryland and is a WNBA draftee.

After a breakthrough summer as starting playmaker during qualification, Inesa Visgaudaite (Lithuania) moved to France with Toulouse. Whilst she found points hard to come by during her first season in the LFB, she has much more in her locker, including her defensive capabilities and organisational skills. Her tough apprenticeship in France which should make her tougher mentally for when she returns in a national team jersey.

Sara Krnjic (Serbia) has made a big splash during her club career and is hoping to do the same with the Serbian national team. Krnjic has established herself as one of the rising stars in EuroLeague Women with some excellent displays for both Pecs and Sopron. Rarely prolific but always good value, she's an adept finisher around the basket and has some effective post moves which cause her defenders problems. She's good on the glass too.

Also looking to impress for Serbia is Ana Dabovic. A natural scorer, she often explodes in a big way during intense purple patches. She is great in the open floor, adept at slicing to the hoop taking opponents off the dribble and generally being creative in her shot selection. She has so much firepower and never fails to impress when checking her out.


Then in addition to those above, there are others also looking to make a splash on this stage for the first time – notably the entire Swedish team, who should be fun to watch.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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« Reply #43 on: May 19, 2013, 06:07:52 PM »

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Dedication of Koehn goes viral

As I ponder heading back into coaching at junior level later this year, it struck me that in 2013, a picture still tells a thousand words; but a social media clip does a whole lot more and therefore this will form an essential part of any coaching I may undertake.

In the old days, it was about taking home the playbook, but nowadays, the sheer resource at the fingertips of all aspiring women ballers is immense.

Not only do they have access to the traditional learning material now online, but also snippets of inspirational best practice which show what kind of dedication may be required to 'make it'.

Yes, an indicator of the level of devotion required, straight to a young players' cell phone.

So, it was with absolute glee, that I came across the story and associated video (is it still okay to use the term video?) of Laurie Koehn last week on various websites.

Who could have thought that a player making three-pointers in practice, over and over and over again could attract a staggering 359,000 views?

Well if you take the time to check it out, you will see why it is worth watching, as Koehn makes an eye-bulging and almost incomprehensible 132 of 135 three-pointers in just five minutes - albeit from the shorter college perimeter, using two balls and an excellent rebounder.

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In stark contrast to myself, a friend of mine was left inexplicably underwhelmed by the clip, miserably mumbling something about games being won in the arena and during actual games.



I was shocked by his attitude. Surely games are won on the practice court when the hard yards are undertaken? And added to this, it is also the competitiveness of players, the heart and desire which allows them to reach the top.

I also think it's about players doing one particular thing excellently and then working on other aspects of their game. With Koehn (who has played at the elite level on both sides of the Atlantic in the WNBA and EuroLeague Women) she has explained that her limited athleticism dictated shooting as her main forte.

The desire part comes from wanting to be the best and taking on challenges. The detail behind the video is apparently that 10 years ago whilst at Kansas, she would drive to the gym as dawn broke every single morning, not just to shoot around, but to take numerous intense shooting drills of 100 shots or more.

Apparently the actual video and challenge arose out of Kansas coach Deb Patterson showing her another player making 118 triples, a landmark she passed after taking up the challenge - before doing what she does in the clip.

She has also been quoted as saying she once made 127 in a row without missing and it's not surprising, since she holds the NCAA record for 392 college career scores from downtown.

On a side note, it mirrored an intriguing interview I heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago with Olympic gold medal winning British swimmer Rebecca Adlington. She explained about having to get up at 4.45am from the age of around 11, to get into the swimming pool before school, head to the classroom for the rest of the day, get back into the pool again after school, get taken home, do her homework and go straight to bed.

Hearing these types of sacrifices never fails to astound, but it was noticeable that both Koehn and Adlington spoke of their love and obsession for what they do. And, Adlington insisted she only had a modicum of natural talent, but just worked incessantly to make the most out of it. Perhaps that is debatable, but hard work and practice was what she talked about.


If I do go on to pick up the coaching board again, the Koehn clip will be one I will pass on to some of my own young players - along with that excellent radio interview with a certain double Olympic gold medal winning swimmer.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA


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« Reply #42 on: May 05, 2013, 07:50:35 PM »

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Who will France turn to when Celine Dumerc hangs up her basketball shoes?

They say that one of the essential ingredients of success for any successful organisation is succession planning.
Yes, having the vision and gumption to think about the future as early as possible and who might take up the reins of essential roles further down the line.

For a commercial business or indeed a basketball club, it's not too much of an issue and can be easily remedied by scouring the market for both talent and value for money. It's actually linked more closely to the free flowing of resources, perhaps governed by more loose eligibility restrictions.<

It is however a completely different prospect altogether for national teams. The pool of successors who can potentially take the throne of those currently revelling in the limelight, can often be limited. So many times a thriving national team falls from grace as a glittering array of veterans step down and replacement are not up to the same kind of standard.

The best nations of course (those most consistently challenging for medals at major tournaments) are so often the ones that have a healthy youth structure and junior national team programmes. Although no guarantee, they are generally tangible and effective mitigation against the risk of the national team suffering a dreaded 'generation gap' by acting as conveyor belts for precious talent.

Therefore you could say, succession planning is in theory at least, effective. Scan back over the years and you will have more hard evidence of this.

French playmaker Celine Dumerc is the reigning FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year. She was the darling of the 2012 London Games, led injury-ravaged Bourges to an incredible third place at the recent EuroLeague Women Final Eight as well as the French Championship.

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Now she is about to carry a considerable chunk of the hosts' gold medal hopes at the forthcoming Eurobasket Women.

I was a little surprised neither were called by French head coach Pierre Vincent, in the photo from FIBA Europe with Celine Dumerc, for the pre-EuroBasket Women preparation camp, although I guess if he thinks they are not yet likely to reach the final 12, they are better off focusing on the U20 European Championship Women and in the case of Epoupa, the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women too. Photograph by FIBA Europe
Photograph from FIBA Europe


She is also gaining wider recognition both in French sporting circles and also in the mainstream media. She is riding the crest of a wave and it's little wonder I have barely seen a player spend her time on the floor with such a broad and wonderful smile on her face.

With veteran national team guard Edwige Lawson retiring after this summer and with Dumerc turning 31 years old this year, succession planning at the point guard spot just became a lot more of an issue for France. But they will have had an eye on this for some time.

Replacing Dumerc in the medium term is probably an impossible task. But France do have some reason to be hopeful that they have good players who can help the national team to continue challenge at the elite level in the longer term via 1993-born Romane Bernies and 1994-born Olivia Epoupa.

The teenage duo have both made huge strides over the past 12 months and it means that a transition phase in the next two-three years is very likely and it will be great to watch.

I was a little surprised neither were called by French head coach Pierre Vincent for the pre-EuroBasket Women preparation camp, although I guess if he thinks they are not yet likely to reach the final 12, they are better off focusing on the U20 European Championship Women and in the case of Epoupa, the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women too.
Bernies has exploded to prominence this year with some excellent performances for Bourges on the highest stage possible. She has reaped the rewards of going up against Dumerc in practice every day and has shown the confidence and poise to make an impact in games. She made some plays to help Bourges reach the Final Eight and then at the event itself, scored in double-digits to help them get onto the podium.

Dumerc (the master) recently acknowledged the progress of her 'pupil' after the event, explaining how she has a huge future in the game. High praise indeed from one of the two people best placed to assess the way Bernies is developing.

The other person is of course Bourges coach Valerie Garnier, who handed Bernies her most minutes of the season in Ekaterinburg during the decisive third-place game. That in itself, highlights the trust and belief she has in the rapidly maturing Bernies, who must be the envy of her young peers everywhere - being able to learn from the best every single day.

"She is always in front of Celine (Dumerc) in practice guarding her," smiled Garnier.

"She loves to practice and also loves to work hard.

"I think she really wants to stay with Bourges because she knows that she will progress better playing with Celine."

Meanwhile the electric Epoupa, who was crowned MVP at last summer's U18 European Championship Women, has completed a hugely encouraging season with Basket Landes.

She also has the capacity to reach the very top and it's true that the most frightening thing is that in reality, both Bernies and Epoupa have an entire decade before they will potentially reach their peak as playmakers.

"It's very difficult to become a top point guard, because I think this sometimes does not truly happen for players until they are 27 or 28 years old," Garnier pointed out.

"They have to continue their journey to this stage by learning and working.

"They can't take any time to even think they are good players at this stage.

The coach added: "Olivia and Romane only become good players and good playmakers, when they can make plays over and over for many seasons and they must remember this at all times.

"But, yes, they both have very big potential."

With the reality that they might not make the step up to the senior team for a few years, France will hope Dumerc plays a little longer yet and there could be a greater role for the likes of Anael Lardy for example, in the interim.

So, whilst I am going to revel in seeing Dumerc and Les Bleues in action this summer, I am going to continue paying particular attention to her possible successors. Not that either should be seen as actual direct replacements of course.

It will also be fun to see if anyone else comes up on the rails and also makes a bid to pull the strings for France in say the next three-five years.

Although importantly, this isn't only about skills, production and the ability to both execute and control tempo.

It's that all important leadership quality too.


Something which isn’t so easy to find in all young and talented players - even with relatively effective succession planning.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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« Reply #41 on: Apr 20, 2013, 08:51:45 PM »

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Another WNBA draft with fascinating international selections

There weren’t too many surprises in the headlines of this years’ WNBA draft, but once again the choice of non-American ‘international’ draftees was absolutely fascinating as is often the case.

And, my initial reaction is that five very interesting players, have been chosen and should be capable of grabbing court time in the future.

Kayla Alexander, Canada (San Antonio Silver Stars)

There was only one international player selected in the first round of the draft and it was always going to be Canadian Kayla Alexander, after the centre impressed with a string of personal accolades and huge performances with Syracuse where she finished as the all-time leading scorer. She also held record for most blocks, field goals made, free-throws and even games played.

Inspiring close to 100 wins during her time with the Orange, she was a no-brainer. She was picked eighth by San Antonio Silver Stars which meant she did miss out on the possibility of being the highest drafted Canadian in WNBA history, but she won’t mind, since she can be confident her offensive rebounding skills, size and wingspan will mean she is able to carve out a fruitful WNBA career during coming years.

Emma Meesseman, Belgium (Washington Mystics)

The former FIBA Europe Young Women’s Player of the Year was almost a certainty to be picked up along with Alexander, since she was rated by most as being the best Euro prospect.

She is a wonderful player in so many aspects and that is why she was rather cutely snapped up on a four year deal by four-time EuroLeague Women champions Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje last summer and then promptly loaned to Villeneuve d’Ascq in the French League for two seasons.

She was selected in the second round in nineteenth spot by the Mystics and Mike Thibault, who of course chose another frontcourt international player in last year’s draft, when selecting African prospect Astan Dabo with Connecticut. She remains a long-term project, with Meesseman arguably more polished at this stage.

The Belgian may actually pitch up in DC this summer since the national team are not competing at EuroBasket Women - although new head coach Dan Goethals will be keen to have his marquee player involved in the programme.

Meesseman suffered a broken wrist at the start of the season, but the center produced some really nice numbers and number of impressive double digit scores in what is a high level French League.

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She is also known for her great attitude, temperament as well as her super skills and she is just the kind of player and person you really want to see succeed and reach the very top.

There was only one international player selected in the first round of the draft and it was always going to be Canadian Kayla Alexander, after the centre impressed with a string of personal accolades and huge performances with Syracuse where she finished as the all-time leading scorer. She also held record for most blocks, field goals made, free-throws and even games played.
Photograph The Barrie Examiner


Diandra Tchatchouang, France (San Antonio Silver Stars)

This was arguably a choice straight out of leftfield and the one real eyebrow raiser as San Antonio Silver Stars opted for her in the second round as the 20th pick. Not because the French forward doesn’t have the talent to one day step out Stateside, but because I think basically, nobody saw it coming.

The 21 year old was a little off the grid, perhaps because she didn’t complete her final two years at Maryland and opted to return home, where she has just completed her most productive and impressive pro-season with Perpignan, having previously struggled for opportunities in 2011-12 with Montpellier.

She is powerful, mobile and has a decent shooting touch. She's also finally finding her feet in the French League and delivering against the enormous potential of a glittering youth career.

She was on the reserve list for the London Olympics last summer but just didn’t make it and is pushing to squeeze into the French roster for the Eurobasket Women this summer in her homeland and it will be a close call. The French are blessed with plenty of frontcourt options, but Tchatchouang may finally get the nod.

Olcay Cakir, Turkey (New York Liberty)

I first saw Cakir as a 16 year old at the U16 European Championships for Women in Naples during 2009. I remember it vividly and was impressed from the moment I clapped eyes on her. She has went on to win what was her nations’ first ever youth medal last summer at the U20 European Championship and has even played in a EuroLeague Women Final Eight semi-final with Fenerbahce. And, perhaps it was with a recommendation from Cappie Pondexter that the New York Liberty opted for her in in the third round as the 27th pick.

No doubt going up against Cakir in practice every day would persuade Pondexter to add credence to her potential.

Although still a teenager for a couple more months, she’s a long-term prospect but has plenty of skills to succeed. I really like her, she has a big heart, is perpetual motion when she is on the floor and can take it to the hoop impressively. If she can work on her outside shot, then she can be a big time player.

The biggest challenge if she does progress as hoped, will be managing to persuade her to turn her back on her country for a whole summer. A proud nation and one now making sizeable waves in women's basketball at the elite level, I can’t see many Turkish players withdrawing from winning medals at EuroBasket Women, the FIBA World Championship Women (which they host next year) or an Olympics. Also, it was interesting that Cakir was drafted and fellow Turkish prospect Tugce Canitez wasn’t.

Alina Iagupova, Ukraine (Los Angeles Sparks)

There’s a slight irony that of all the international players selected, the one which fills me with most excitement and the player who I genuinely feel could step into the WNBA this summer and actually make an incredible splash was the one lowest on the list. Chosen in 35th position in the third round by the Sparks, Iagupova is a phenomenon.

It may seem odd to say this since she hasn’t even played in an elite club competition such as EuroLeague Women and therefore lacks experience, but I have probably never seen a more talented player at U20 level or below in Europe during recent years.

She is an immense physical specimen, powerful and explosive when going to the hoop, rebounds really well, has an eye for a pass and is an awesome shooter. She has it all and you can see she loves the game - even playing dead rubber matches like it was a WNBA or EuroLeague Women Final Eight championship game.

I love her and it is an absolute travesty she is still playing in the domestic league in Ukraine because she deserves to be competing at the elite level. And, that could probably benefit both her an their national team, for whom she dominates in most categories.


She will lead Ukraine at EuroBasket Women this summer and Spaks fans need to take a close look. If they do, I am sure they will get excited.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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« Reply #40 on: Mar 28, 2013, 07:40:25 PM »

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

Young guns go for it at EuroLeague Women Final Eight

As the celebratory confetti is swept up from the court at the DIVS Arena in Ekaterinburg, Russia, it's time to reflect on another EuroLeague Women Final Eight.

And, as a fervent supporter of women's youth basketball, one of the most pleasing aspects of the event was seeing a number of rising stars stepping out.

Generously drawing the age limit at players born in 1990, there's little doubt the most impressive 'young' player was Nnemkadi Ogwumike.

Following on from her 'Rookie of the Year' accolade last summer in the WNBA, the talented forward has excelled in Poland with CCC Polkowice and helped them make history by making Final Eight.

She averaged 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game during her inaugural season in the competition and seems to have reveled in plenty of freedom both on and off the court. On the same team are Karolina Puss and Dominika Owczarzak, both promising young Polish players and especially the latter, who stepped onto the court at Final Eight against the star laden UMMC and spent several minutes orchestrating the play - and scoring five points.

It's a similar case for Good Angels Kosice who didn't utilise the promising guard skills of Barbora Balintova but did give some minutes to Zsofia Hruscakova, a 1995-born forward who I rate highly having watched her 'live' last summer at the U20 European Championship for Women when she went up against older players with real gusto.

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In Ekaterinburg, she found herself battling in the paint with the likes of Candace Parker and Sandrine Gruda - a great experience indeed.

Nneka Ogwumike helped lead Stanford to the Final Four each year she was in college. Her senior season, the 6-foot-2 forward averaged 22.5 points and 10.2 rebounds on her way to being the only player aside from Brittney Griner to unanimously be named a First Team All-American.
Photograph: WNBA


Meanwhile, former 'wonder-kid' Nika Baric is dividing opinion right now. Some feel the Slovenian playmaker would benefit from more minutes playing at a different club, rather than receiving perceived limited opportunities with 15 minutes per game at Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje.

However, at just 20-years-old, I am in the camp which feels she is still young enough to be learning from one of the best in practice every day in the shape of Becky Hammon and that in such an elite level competition, 15 minutes is not to be sniffed at for a young point guard. But, I do think there will be a potential watershed moment next summer if she is not able to fulfil a more expanded role next season. I did however enjoy two notable performances at Final Eight, despite the former four-time champions being surprisingly sent home early.

Saving the best until last, 1993-born duo Christelle Diallo and Romane Bernies both helped an injury-ravaged Bourges take third place. Bernies in particular showed some great development in her game. Having already shown a glimpse of her improvement during the play-offs when she helped her team punch their play-off ticket and get past Wisla with 12 vital points, she was superb in the bronze medal game.

She actually played alongside FIBA Europe Women's Player Of The Year, Celine Dumerc for long spells instead of replacing her as usual. This resulted in Bernies producing a super display against Kosice with 10 points from 4 of 6 floor shooting to helping the French side onto the podium.

There were of course a number of other young players who shone brightly during the regular season and far too many to mention. However, Los Angeles Sparks draftee Farhiya Abdi certainly deserves a shout out for upping her shooting percentages and having a real impact on several games in the regular season.


I now can't wait to see how many of these rising stars continue to progress during the summer with their respective national team programmes and I will be watching closely to see how they all fare.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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« Reply #39 on: Feb 28, 2013, 09:56:29 PM »

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

‘My Sonjko’ - a unique window into the development
of a modern day and elite level player

The bond between father and daughter is a strong one and when an additional unwavering passion for basketball is woven intrinsically through this relationship, it makes for a powerful dynamic.

That is why reading ‘My Sonjko,’ a book written by Radoslav Petrovic about his basketball star daughter Sonja Petrovic is an absolute no brainer - and even more so than when this engaging insight into a very personal and family journey is available for free.

A non-commercial project, ‘My Sonjko’ has already been distributed in the USA, Spain, Russia and France.

Rather aptly and in keeping with those family values, Sonja was recently quoted in an interview as explaining to those requiring a copy that 'you just need to get in touch with me or my dad.' Perhaps this epitomises all you need to know.

Still only in her early twenties, Sonja Petrovic is of course the Serbian national team player who is currently representing Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje in the EuroLeague Women and last year completed her rookie WNBA season with Chicago Sky.

However, all of this headline achievement and recognition almost pales into insignificance when you pick up 'My Sonjko' - the affectionate moniker still used by 'Rade' Petrovic in respect of his daughter.

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You get to view the personal and basketball development of Sonja (intriguingly alongside that of her sister during the 'early days') and all viewed so beautifully through the doting but determined eyes of her father - someone who was already deeply immersed in the game.


Still only in her early twenties, Sonja Petrovic is of course the Serbian national team player who is currently representing Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje in the EuroLeague Women and last year completed her rookie WNBA season with Chicago Sky.
Photograph: WNBA



Petrovic senior states: "Even before this time, basketball was my life, love, happiness, but it gets richer for a new, bigger, better dimension, when in basketball enters - My Sonjko."

The book essentially gives a whistle-stop ride from the moment Sonja first asked to pick up a basketball, right up until the current time and it is quite some journey, believe me. There's even a page on the 'war' when NATO air strikes regularly struck Belgrade and the iconic photo which Sonja was the main focus of.

If you want polished vocabulary and flawless edited English, then you may be left disappointed. The truth is, it doesn't matter at all, because this book is about undiluted and raw emotion, it's incredibly honest and offers an incisive commentary so magically immersed in the Serbian basketball mentality.

It's a delight. A real, real treat.

Sonja has explained how the process of writing the book with her father led to many tearful moments. This is understandable, since the emotion and intensity drips off the pages - whether it is injuries, setbacks, or those difficult times when listening to the air-raid sirens as father and child.

The best elements of this terrific book is that the wider emphasis is placed on education and focuses on what Petrovic senior believes is the best way to develop a young player as a coach, but most importantly as a parent.

As far as I am concerned, anyone involved with youth basketball or who has kids playing basketball needs to read 'My Sonjko'.

Not because it is necessarily outlines the right approach, but it is an almost unique opportunity to grab a shared experience - something which is invaluable. You really do feel like you are walking in the shoes of 'Rade' at times.

I will certainly be referring to it in the future when my own children Xavi and Nate eventually pick up a ball.

I don't want to give too much else away, but please try to get your hands on a copy.


I am already eagerly anticipating the sequel, one which could possibly start with events at Final Eight of EuroLeague Women next month when Sonja again steps out with Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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« Reply #38 on: Feb 25, 2013, 11:29:09 PM »

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

The most expensive decision in women’s basketball history?

It was undoubtedly one of the toughest choices for a coach in women’s basketball history, but was the recent decision by UMMC Ekaterinburg to leave Sue Bird out of EuroLeague Women Final Eight in favour of Candace Parker, the most expensive ever taken?

UMMC haven’t won the EuroLeague Women title for a decade and in recent years in particular, are reported to have spent tens of millions of dollars in pursuit of the top prize in women’s club basketball alongside the WNBA Championship.

With so much mind-blowing sums having already been blown without recent success, they will never have a better chance to finally deliver than this year. They have only lost once all season, they will host the event and are as star-laden a team as you could ever wish to find.

Only they are actually too dripping with ‘foreign’ talent and that threw up a tantalising and delicate scenario we always knew was going to happen as far back as last summer.

With Diana Taurasi an absolute no-brainer to play at the Final Eight because of both her talent and uncanny knack of winning the competition, eligibility rules meant a straight choice for Ekat between Parker and Bird.

With both being superstars of the women’s game and incredible players in their own right, the general feeling was that the late mid-season arrival of Bird meant she was in the box-seat and already pencilled in for the showpiece event.

This was confirmed when Parker was de-registered as expected and we were given the ‘dream backcourt’ of Bird and Taurasi for the latter part of the regular season - one which has of course, already proven to be the perfect recipe for a top of the podium finish.

As Bird tried to hit the ground running, Parker was sat with her feet up, still participating in the Russian League, but relegated to mere spectator in EuroLeague Women, having posted her best campaign in Europe with a near season double-double of 16.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.


Perhaps this planted the initial seed of doubt into the mind of head coach Olaf Lange, and you couldn’t blame him or Ekat General Manager Maxim Rybakov if this was indeed the case.


The truth is that Parker now has a lot of weight to bear on her shoulders. Ekat have put considerable faith in her by leaving out a class act like Bird and therefore Parker needs to deliver the goods when it truly matters in the big games next month. Photograph: ESPN Cover
Photograph: ESPN



Bird arrived and typically showed her class by finding her team-mates in a big way, dishing up 6.7 assists per game. Only she didn’t quite find the rhythm shooting-wise, managing only 25% from the field over the course of three games. Consequently you got the feeling that the scales were tipping in favour of a re-think.

Only I don’t think it actually was the respective contributions of either Bird or Parker which caused the perceived change of heart and subsequent decision to choose the latter for Final Eight.

I fully believe that it was the impact of Spanish national team playmaker Silvia Dominguez which led to Parker being given the nod. For she was simply terrific for the first four months of the season, when in theory, she was merely keeping the point guard spot warm for Bird - she even admitted this openly to me during a recent interview.

Having won successive EuroLeague Women titles with Perfumerias Avenida and then Ros Casares, I am guessing she proved to Lange and Rybakov that beyond any doubt, she was the real deal after producing 4.8 assists per game, and there was no need to sacrifice Parker.

Equally, perhaps the limited impact of the Ekat frontcourt options outside of Parker also weighed heavy on the team's minds. This year, the competition seems to be dominated by players under the basket and without Parker, it’s fair to say that Ekat have lacked punch in the paint.

For the record, I do love Bird, there are few fans of women’s basketball who don’t. But, you can see why on balance, it’s probably the right decision based on the balance of the team and the form of Parker.

History will judge whether this proves to be the right call and whether UMMC wins the title or not. I think either way, it's already the most expensive decision ever taken in the women’s game because of the finances involved and what is at stake.

The truth is that Parker now has a lot of weight to bear on her shoulders. Ekat have put considerable faith in her by leaving out a class act like Bird and therefore Parker needs to deliver the goods when it truly matters in the big games next month.

The other 14 teams seeking to land one of the seven coveted spots available for Final Eight begin their three game play-off series today.


It’s going to be as fascinating and as dramatic as ever.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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« Reply #37 on: Feb 07, 2013, 06:41:47 PM »

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

Boom time on the floor for Slovakian women’s basketball

It may have not quite reached the glory days of the past, but the current on-court boom of Slovak Republic women’s basketball is mightily impressive, taking into account the biting economic climate and the mismatch in resources between many of their opponents from elsewhere.

Right now, both in EuroLeague Women and EuroCup Women, there are a couple of clubs punching way above their weight and ensuring the smile, which started back last summer when the national team qualified for yet another Eurobasket Women tournament (perhaps against expectations), became even broader.

Flying the flag proudly are Good Angels Kosice, a club that have evolved markedly in recent years in EuroLeague Women, using baby steps of incremental improvement to transform the club from a perennial struggler to current table-toppers in Group B.

A few years ago, they began their rise to prominence by putting their eggs in the basket of superstar duo Angel McCoughtry and Candice Dupree, with the rest of the team set as a supporting cast. Something which paid dividends as they became a winning team making it to the post-season.

Since then, they have went in another direction altogether and now have one of the most team-orientated rosters in the competition and are enjoying a stunning season. With just one game of the regular season remaining, they have harvested a mind-boggling nine wins from eleven games, further underlining their quality with last weeks’ success against the might of Turkish giant Fenerbahce.

They have recruited very well, bringing in young players like Icelandic guard/forward Helena Sverrrisdottir for example and keeping their faith in her for a second season. They have also given players like Miljana Bojovic the confidence and platform to transform her game and career, the 25 year old playmaker dishing up 6.3 assists per game in this elite club competition.

Alongside this pair are well know faces such as leading scorer and former WNBA player Alexandria Quigley as well as Plenette Pierson. They also have Czech Republic centre Petra Kulichova who was the standout player at the Olympic Qualifiying Tournament in Ankara last year, the promising Tijana Krivacevic who was drafted to the WNBA by Seattle Storm and Slovak Republic national team player Lucia Kupcikova.

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This enriched this approach focused on depth, has delivered a team posing danger in every area of the court which is an absolute nightmare for opposing coaches who can’t really lock down and focus defensively on one or two key players.

The start of the transformation for Kosice on-court was overseen by former play-caller Stefan Svitek, controversially fired at the end of last season. But, they have continued their success thanks to new head coach Maros Kovacik who deserves the utmost recognition for his fantastic results so far and linked to this, General Manager Daniel Jendrichovsky also deserves some praise too.

The start of the transformation for Kosice on-court was overseen by former play-caller Stefan Svitek, controversially fired at the end of last season. But, they have continued their success thanks to new head coach Maros Kovacik who deserves the utmost recognition for his fantastic results so far and linked to this, General Manager Daniel Jendrichovsky also deserves some praise too.

Svitek meanwhile moved on to MBK Ruzomberok who compete in EuroCup Women and incredibly, he has managed to guide them to the semi-finals which will be played later this week when they go up against Kayseri Kaski spor of Turkey.

Despite having only a couple of players over the age of 26 and with the club having been hamstrung by significant financial constraints compared to previous seasons, the club has risen to the challenge in a big way, bizarrely not winning a single home game in the competition but proving unbeatable on the road.

Whilst it is wholly unlikely that MBK Ruzomberok can overcome a team like Kayseri who took down the mighty Galatasaray 48 hours ago in the Turkish League, this progress brings memories flooding back for fans.

They can indulge in the exciting buzz of reminiscing about the glory days when Elena Marencikova, Alena Kovacova and a young Zuzana Zirkova helped land consecutive EuroLeague Women titles during 1999 and 2000.

There are other key dynamics in relation to this current on-court success of this Slovakian duo.

Importantly, it provides inspiration to some highly talented young Slovakian players who may not look to other leagues but be encouraged to stay in situ, playing in their own league and representing the likes of Kosice or Ruzomberok. And, there are some potentially big talents emerging such as Barbora Balintova and 1995 born forward Zsofia Hruscakova.

Secondly, it further boosts the feel-good factor for the national team and head coach Ivan Vojtko who should now take his side to France for EuroBasket Women with reasons to be hopeful of a good performance.

Although, it’s also important to note that it’s not all roses in the garden. For the financial climate remains a huge ongoing issue, evidenced by Good Angels Kosice having to cut their second team Dannax Sport last summer (which also operated in the Slovakian League).

But, despite this adversity, Good Angels Kosice, MBK Ruzomberok and indeed the national team too, have all shown remarkable resilience. They have used some tough circumstances to galvanise themselves, turn threats into opportunities and on all fronts, go back to basics on the court.


For whatever the finances, resources or situation, there’s nothing like playing smart team basketball and winning games at all levels.

Maximum respect to all involved.


Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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« Reply #36 on: Jan 17, 2013, 04:31:31 AM »

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

Mixed reaction to Vainauskas appointment

When Russia decided to spring a surprise and appoint a foreign  to oversee the women’s national team recently, it caused a decidedly mixed reaction.

The appointment of Lithuanian Alfredas Vainauskas has caused something of a stir and not least because the Dynamo Kursk play-caller was barely mentioned with Anatoliy Myshkin the runaway favourite.

Additionally, if the bold step was to be made of installing a foreign coach, Sparta&K M.R.Vidnoje and Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman was viewed by just about everybody as being the one and only choice.

But, Vainauskas came up on the rails and interestingly, the decision was taken despite the legendary Maria Stepanova strongly suggesting a Russian national was best for the role last month.

She didn’t pull any punches when she said: "All the national team players are full of ambition and each of them needs a personal approach.

"It's not an easy task to figure out the Russian soul."

Having read those comments, I thought the Russian Federation would echo that sentiment and would go with another home-grown coach to follow in the footsteps of the departed Boris Sokolovsky.

But, it wasn’t to be, and Vainauskas now finds himself heading to EuroBasket Women hoping to at the very least, qualify for the FIBA World Championship next year and try to get back on the podium or even defend their EuroBasket title.

The reaction to him being handed the reins has been decidedly mixed.

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Vainauskas did receive a glowing tribute from Anna Petrakova whom he won EuroCup Women with last year in Kursk and a player he got really playing well, something which helped her achieve both her Olympic dream and then a money-spinning move at  level to the mighty UMMC Ekaterinburg.





But, even when there were seemingly compliments being given from other quarters, they were of the backhanded variety. A prime example was the reaction of former gold medal winning Elen Shakirova.

"Let's just say the appointment is not a bad choice, and I think he will still be able to help the team get out of the difficult situation. However, the priority should be the Russian coach, not a foreigner," she told the RIA news agency.

It’s going to be a dimension/label that will be difficult for Vainauskas to shed.

It is likely to pile  on him much more quickly if things don’t go well initially, whilst staunch nationalists could be further riled if he opts to bring in Epiphanny Prince as a naturalised player, someone who is performing well for him with Dynamo Kursk at club level.

The appetite for utilising Prince seems to be even less palatable amongst traditionalists and if he does decide to utilise her, he is likely to place his work even more firmly under the microscope.

Already, some people are pointing to the fact that the darling and indeed MVP of EuroBasket Women 2011 was Elena Danilochkina and she could be squeezed out by Prince having also been limited by the use of veteran Becky Hammon at London 2012.

But even in this respect there is a headache with sharp-shooter Evengia Belyakova stating publically that her Sparta&K team-mate Hammon is still a much better option than Prince.

It’s quite interesting to see how this will play out and especially since the coach clearly has a lengthy conversation to have with Stepanova to convince her that is can appreciate ‘the Russian soul’.

His inbox also contains reviewing the situation of players like Svetlana Abrosimova who was surprisingly frozen out of the picture altogether by Sokolovsky and her vast experience could certainly be an option again.

The big positive I see with Vainauskas is that this is about as new a chapter as you could possibly get on the court, because the change in the way Russia are likely to play compared to the last couple of years could be pretty stark.

After seeing the work of Vainauskas with Kursk and having listened to the comments of several players, Russia are likely to be more up-tempo, dynamic and flexible in their approach when they take to the floor in France.

Under Sokolovsky, it was very structured and perhaps a little too stifling. You have to give him respect for winning gold two years ago at EuroBasket Women, but the team looked too one dimensional and playing without freedom of expression in London.

So, perhaps the willingness of the new coach to allow his players to express themselves more fully and freely will favour and help to harvest the levels of respect, trust and support he probably needs and deserves.

Whether he can pull it off by changing the playing style with the players he has at his disposal remains to be seen of course.

For playing at a high and upbeat tempo is not so easy when you can’t recruit players to suit your system and you inherit a wealth of pivots who might not necessarily suit your ethos.


Still, that’s something he will have to work on and I wish him every success and hope those skeptical about having a foreign coach give him a fair chance to impress.

Paul Nilsen from FIBA



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