Batkovic Relishes EuroLeague Experience

By Doug Booth, PA International

The 2005 FIBA EuroLeague Women play-offs are turning into a trip down memory lane for Ros Casares' Australia center Suzy Batkovic.

Suzy Batkovic had 11.8 ppg and 6.1 rpg for USVO last season
The 1.92m Batkovic has been catching up with good friends and former team-mates in the competition, with the prospect of more to come when the quarter-finals start next Tuesday.

Having successfully disposed of French giants US Valenciennes Olympic over two legs in the round of the last 16, the quiet achievers from Valencia now meet Russian champions VBM-SGAU Samara in the quarter-finals.

The victory over USVO was "a nice feeling", according to Batkovic, who spent two seasons with the France club before moving to Spain for the 2004-2005 campaign.

"I made a lot of friends at USVO and it was good to catch up with a lot of them at last week's game," said the 24-year-old, who won a silver medal with the Opals at the Athens Olympics.

Batkovic said she will cherish one moment from last week's second leg match, which Ros Casares won 73-70, for a long time.

"It was in the second quarter and we were back on defence," she said.

"As I went back, (USVO's) Audrey Sauret ran past and gave me five. I didn't think about it at the time but it really was a natural thing to do."

Batkovic said the sporting gesture summed up the club.

"I really enjoyed my time at USVO. They are a great club, so professional," she said.

"Valencia had not beaten them in recent years so to win in France was great.

"I have fond memories of the team but, after two years, I needed a change. I needed somewhere warmer."

Batkovic was all set to team up with fellow Opal Trish Fallon at Valencia but in the end, the veteran forward decided to stay in Australia.

"We were planning to play together. It would have been great because we are good friends and we would have saved money on phone bills because we are always calling each other," she laughed.

"I still miss the Aussie barbies and my friends and family

I still miss the Aussie barbies and my friends and family
Suzy Batkovic

Batkovic is uncertain about her plans for the next 12 months but one thing is certain in the summer of 2006 - she will finally make her debut in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm.

The move will mean Batkovic will link up with her good friend and former Australian Institute of Sport team-mate Lauren Jackson, who is now arguably the best woman basketballer in the world.

"It will happen, as far as I'm concerned," said Batkovic.

"We played together for so many years at the Institute so we will be able to adapt really easily.

"But she needs to know her time zones. She rang me here (in Spain) last week from Seattle and woke me up at 2.30am.

"I am looking forward to being coached by Anne Donovan. I'm glad she still believes in me."

Batkovic revealed she had the chance to play for Seattle, who first drafted her in 2003, this summer but she turned the offer down, even though the decision cost her a WNBA championship ring.

"A break is important," she said.

Playing eight months a year is enough
Suzy Batkovic
"I'm still young and I don't want to burn myself out. Playing eight months a year is enough."

Batkovic is looking forward to the challenge of playing Russia's powerful VBM-SGAU Samara team in the quarter-finals.

Samara showed they will be formidable opposition when they beat Delta ICP Kosice by a combined total of more than 100 points in the last 16.

"We have gained one advantage - Sheryl Swoopes has gone back to the States," said Batkovic.

"But they are a great team with players such as Maria Stepanova and Tatiana Shchegoleva dominating."

Batkovic will also get the chance to catch up with former USVO team-mate and Belgium international center Ann Wauters, who is starring for the Russian side.

Wauters, who is two months older than Batkovic, scored 20 points in their last match against Kosice.

But the Valencia club have plenty of firepower themselves, including Spanish international forward Amaya Valdemoro who is averaging 19 points per game.

She scored 20 points against USVO in the second play-off game.

"I just hope they (Samara) play more individually and we stick together in the play-offs," she said.

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