|17 October 2013|
|Candace Parker is set to once again star for UMMC Ekaterinburg|
We take a look at the Euroleague Women prospects of champions UMMC Ekaterinburg, ahead of the start of their title defence next month.
Last Season: UMMC were rampant, sweeping aside everyone at the Final Eight to win the competition in front of their own fans after an agonising wait of exactly a decade. Only Perfumerias Avenida got to taste the joy of beating them, as Ekat warmed up for the last phase with an 11-1 record during the opening round of regular season action.
Significant Summer Departures: There was only one departure during the summer and it was Quanitra Hollingsworth, who moved to her adopted home in Turkey to play for arch rivals Fenerbahce, who lost to Ekat in the Final last season.
Roster Review: Bulging with top-class players and overseen by the impressive Olaf Lange who delivered the elusive trophy during his first season at the helm, continuity beckons for UMMC and that is seriously bad news for anyone else with an eye on wrestling away their cherished possession. Once again, the unmistakable Candace Parker and Diana Taurasi will be the ones to write the headlines, whilst the long-serving Deanna Nolan and Spanish point guard Silvia Dominguez will do their respective good things in the backcourt - and especially the latter. Latvian veteran Anete Jekabsone will be looking for the same kind of production from the wings as she showed down the season stretch, whilst the irrepressible silky skills of Sandrine Gruda will again grace the frontcourt. Polish center Ewelina Kobryn had her Final Eight party spoiled when she rolled an ankle, but gets to come back, now competing with the legendary Ann Wauters for court time, who was the only new recruit. There is also a strong Russian core too, with another legend under the basket in Maria Stepanova who could even be about to play her last season. Olga Arteshina is still recovering from serious injury, but both Anna Petrakova and Tatiana Popova will play some minutes and valuable roles coming off the bench.
Headline Stealer: Take your pick from a plethora of world-class talent. However, if Final Eight MVP Candace Parker finds a similar gear to last year, then she will again be top of the Ekat class. When the forward is playing well and rolling to the basket with such poise, it boosts UMMC from being simply brilliant, to just about unstoppable. She remains very much a women's basketball icon around the world - not just on either side of the Atlantic.
Sliding Onto The Radar: Jam-packed with star names, this roster is target central and for sure, absolutely bang in the middle of the radar with nobody left to slide onto it. They will again be up there as one of the best teams to have ever stepped out onto a EuroLeagueWomen floor in terms of talent and profile.
Scanning The Schedule: Guarding against complacency will be important and playing in the toughest group of the first phase should provide additional help in getting some early focus. Especially since Ekat face two of their fellow semi-finalists from Final Eight last year during the first three games in the form of Tango Bourges Basket and Good Angels Kosice. Still, they will be expected to win most games again, and they also have match-ups against newcomer Kayseri Kaski Spor and the tragedy-stricken Uni Gyor.
‘Twittertastic': The starting point must be @Candace_Parker along with @BC_UMMC @sdominguez6 @PetrARuLove
In Just Ten Words: Big favourites and should finish top of the podium again