By Soriebah Kajue, PA International
Chamique Holdsclaw has fallen in love with basketball again, several months after leaving the WNBA's Washington Mystics to battle depression.
A player so gifted that some described her as 'the female Michael Jordan', the 28-year-old Holdsclaw was at the height of her brilliant career in the summer when she stunned women's hoops fans around the world and walked off the court.
There was speculation that a dispute with coach Michael Adams or rookie sensation Alana Beard had led to her departure, but unbeknownst to everyone was that Holdsclaw was depressed.
Having received help, Holdsclaw decided to accept an offer with Spanish side Ros Casares and her career has quickly gotten back on track.
The USA international was recently voted FIBA EuroLeague Women Player of the Week, and has been a big reason why the Valencia outfit are still in contention for honours in Europe, and Spain.
"I don't regret it (leaving)," she told PA International. "I was dealing with a lot and going through a transition.
||Coming here has helped me to fall in love with the game again
"There was a lot of stuff going on. My grandmother had just died and she was like my mom. At that point in time, there were more important things then playing basketball.
"I had to take care of myself.
"Sometimes when people get down or have a hard time you have to show that you can come back.
"It doesn't matter if you are a superstar or a normal person. Some people don't know how to pick themselves up but I've shown that you can do it."
Holdsclaw is intent on recapturing the form that help her amass three WNBA titles with the Mystics and three NCAA titles with Tennessee.
After scoring just six points in her first EuroLeague game against Delta Kosice, Holdsclaw has turned on the style. Now, after six games, she is averaging 19.2 points and 11 rebounds a game.
She is such a celebrity that the attention always falls on her, but she knows that Ros Casares have to be a complete team to be successful.
Spirits rising in Valencia
Ros Casares are probably the most high profile team in Spain, an outfit which includes the likes of Spanish national team star Amaya Valdemoro.
But they had a very difficult start to the campaign, losing an uncharacteristic three of their first eight games in the Liga Femenina, while splitting their first two in Europe.
The club decided to part with German coach Olaf Lange, and promote assistant Israel Sanchis.
Ros Casares have played much better with Holdsclaw, who had only just arrived when Lange was removed.
They now have nine wins and four defeats in Spain, leaving them three games adrift of leaders Perfumerias Avenida, while in the FIBA EuroLeague Women they are 4-3 and in fourth place in Group B - points adrift of French juggernauts Bourges.
"I think we're playing a lot better, but I don't know a lot about the old coach because I got here and then two days later he was gone," she said.
"I hadn't played basketball for three months before I came and then I had to learn this coach's new plays, but it's going well and we've not lost a lot of games and when we have it's only been by one or two points.
"I'm really enjoying my time here, it's been great because I already knew Murriel Page and two or three of the other girls, so it's been a pretty easy transition.
"I use to take Spanish in school but I'm also taking lessons at the moment.
"One of my friends from school is out here acting as my personal assistant and I always have friends coming over, so I don't get homesick."
|Chamique has been in top form with Valencia in the EuroLeague Women|
While Holdsclaw spent time away from the game, she had to withdraw from the US Olympic squad and, as a result, missed out on winning another gold medal with the side which has had no equals in international competition since the Atlanta Games.
After an outstanding collegiate career at college powerhouse Tennessee, Holdsclaw was a regular in the American national side and won a gold medal at Sydney 2000.
She will be a player, it seems, who could walk right back into the national squad.
For now, Holdsclaw is doing her best to make sure that Ros Casares are among the best teams in Europe.
"I feel pretty confident and I'm playing good basketball, we have to make sure we play hard and aggressive when we go out. That will give ourselves a good chance of winning something," she said.
"I love basketball and I train hard.
"Before my situation in America, I was playing great and having probably my best season.
"But things happened, and when I had the chance to come to Ros Casares, I decided to take. I could have stayed in the US but coming here has helped me to fall in love with the game again."