|Slovak international Lucia Kupcikova is entering her fourth season at Good Angels Kosice|
By Paul Nilsen
The rise and rise of Good Angels Kosice in recent years has been outstanding, but with each year that now passes, it may be more difficult to sustain continuous improvement.
After transforming themselves into a club now expected to reach the play-offs, have the capabilities of Good Angels Kosice plateaued, or can they take the next step and book a spot at the Final Eight?
When former head coach Stefan Svitek was dismissed by the club, it was a surprise and not understood by most people. Now we are preparing to find out whether the club will regret this decision or will move on and continue to impress.
Maros Kovacik is now in the coaching hot-seat and he will benefit from a glut of particularly shrewd signings including the frontcourt trio of Tijana Krivacevic, Petra Kulichova and Plenette Pierson, as well as Alexandria Quigley and shooter Katarina Pindrochova.
Simply outstanding when in Sopron before playing a limited role for last year's EuroLeague Women Final Eight runners-up Rivas Ecopolis, Krivacevic is a great addition who brings wonderful defensive versatility and is still improving at just 22 years of age.
Kulichova will embark on her ninth successive year in EuroLeague Women in what will be her first season outside of her homeland.
Having waved goodbye to the hugely impressive contribution of Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje loanee Natalia Vieru, it's clear the Good Angels would like Kulichova to pick up the baton and utilise her superb shot-blocking and rebounding ability.
|Serbian point guard Miljana Bojovic says a realistic goal for the club this year is to reach the EuroLeague Women Final Eight|
Pierson is a veteran forward and a two-time WNBA champion - although oddly, this will be her first season in the EuroLeague Women but she is likely to relish this kind of a challenge so late in her otherwise impressive career which has seen her regularly compete in EuroCup Women.
Quigley recently starred for Hungary during the EuroBasket Women Qualification Round and steps back into the EuroLeague Women where she previously stood out for Pecs 2010. She will add a scoring threat with her all-round skills a welcome boost to the roster, while Pindrochova has proven her worth in the Slovak League.
During recent times, Kosice general manager Daniel Jendrichovsky has handed some star players an opportunity to make their mark in the EuroLeague Women - most notably Angel McCoughtry and Candice Dupree.
Now, it's seemingly the turn of playmaker Riquna Williams to try and establish herself, having recently completed in her rookie WNBA season with Tulsa Shock.
However, it's a trio of returnees that may hold the key to success.
Icelandic swing player Helena Sverrisdottir is likely to be even better during her second season, forward Lucia Kupcikova remains one of the most underrated players in European basketball, and Miljana Bojovic is cementing herself as a pivotal and influential fixture in the backcourt.
Having stepped up to the plate as a playmaker, Bojovic believes that once again, the team ethic will be the most important factor.
"The beginning of last season was very tough for us. We lost our captain and leader of the team, Zuzana Zirkova, due to injury, as well as Iveta Salkauske who left the club after one month and so nobody even gave us a chance that we might advance to the second round," Bojovic recalls.
|Czech center Petra Kulichová brings her rebounding and shot-blocking skills to Good Angels Kosice|
"But, importantly, we kept believing and despite being among the youngest teams, we showed talent and big character to arrive in the last sixteen.
"We didn't have big star players, but we had a real team and that was our key to success.
"For me individually, it was indisputably my best season so far, but it was easy and a real pleasure to lead that great team with a great atmosphere.
"Playing in the strongest club competition in Europe is definitely something that can only improve your basketball. If you put aside all the excitement and joy, every game brings new experience and I learned tons just by playing against the world's best point guards.
"I will not be modest and I'll say a realistic goal for this team is reaching the Final Eight," continued Bojovic.
"Everything is possible on paper. But we will have to show our quality on the court since we have a lot of good experienced players as well as youngsters. We can play good defence and have possibilities to score from almost every position - you should watch out for the whole team."
Bojovic certainly couldn't be happier in Kosice and was also quick to explain one further reason why she is proud to play for the club.
She explained: "Not a lot of people know why the team is called Good Angels and I think the whole of Europe should know that Good Angel aka ‘Dobry Anjel' in Slovakian, is a humanitarian organisation that supports people fighting against cancer.
"The club donates a certain amount of money for each basket made in the EuroLeague Women to the organization Dobry Anjel. And, it's just one of the ways that the club are helping them."
Kosice also has some particularly wonderful young players who may get some minutes of the bench including Barbora Balintova, Martina Kissova, Beata Janoscikova and 1995-born standout Zsofia Hruscakova who I feel has a potentially huge future in the game - if she keeps working hard.
Good Angels Kosice should probably reach the post-season. But, perhaps the Final Eight would actually represent an over-achievement, since expectation has arguably become too high.
Yet simply making the play-offs would be a good accomplishment taking into account their respective resources.