|Maria Stepanova returned to action for UMMC Ekaterinburg and fans in Russia will be hoping she also returns to the national team |
Veteran star Maria Stepanova has spoken of her nine month absence from the game and the future of the Russian national team after making her long awaited comeback over the weekend.
The center completed her rehabilitation by stepping out for UMMC Ekaterinburg for the first time since March of this year when she sustained an ACL injury at the EuroLeague Women Final Four in Istanbul.
It proved to be a successful return for Stepanova who scored 10 points against Nadezhda to keep her team perfect at the summit of the Russian League.
However, the main talking point over the weekend was her interview with Sport-Express.
The 33-year old confirmed to the Russian newspaper that she had never once thought about quitting the game in the wake of some people fearing her illustrious career may have been over.
"I am grateful to the UMMC management that they signed a new contract with me on the next day I got injured" said Stepanova.
"A warm and human attitude like this is hard to find nowadays.
"It motivated me. Instead of grieving, I did everything I could to return to basketball and to do it as fast as possible.
"Frankly speaking, I missed basketball a lot.
"This period was hard for me and I always thought of coming back on the floor. Even after the first five on five training, I was jumping high, full of happiness."
Having missed out at the London Olympics due to her injury, the absence of Stepanova was certainly felt by the Russian national team who are due to appoint a successor to head coach Boris Sokolovskiy.
Whilst Stepanova didn't want to talk too much about whether she would definitely step out in France at the EuroBasket Women next summer, preferring to focus on getting back to full fitness with Ekat first, she did express her preference for the next head coach position.
She reiterated to Sport-Express that she doesn't consider a foreign coach to be a viable option, and tends to agree with the status of Anatoliy Myshkin as frontrunner for the job.
"It's not quite correct for a player to discuss a topic like this in public, but still, the national team players discuss different options" admitted Stepanova.
"I consider Vadim Kapranov to be the best coach in Russian national team history. He believed in me and the girls of my age, and we won.
"There was no other brilliant specialist like him in the national team - Kapranov has a talent from God, but unfortunately he doesn't coach now.
"Anatoliy Myshkin seems to be the best candidate from the acting Russian specialists. I used to work under his guidance at CSKA, and it was a good time.
"It was a place where I turned to be a professional player. Myshkin does not have a practical coaching experience lately, but still, I think he is the best option for the national team if we pick up from the Russians.
"As for the foreigners, a lot of girls compliment Sparta&K head coach Pokey Chatman.
"But it's hard for me to say anything specific about her because I didn't work under her guidance. But I think it will be hard for a foreigner to work with us.
"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."
An announcement on the vacant head coaching position is expected to be made in coming weeks, whilst the next moves for Stepanova will be to continue her battle to regain full match fitness, re-introduce herself to the EuroLeague Women, and then confirm as to whether she intends to continue her astonishing record at EuroBasket Women 2013.