Leuchanka Pick-Up Paying Dividends For Ekaterinburg

08 April 2008

Has there ever been a more valuable acquisition before the EuroLeague Women play-offs than Ekaterinburg pick-up Yelena Leuchanka this season?

Don't even think about it.

The Belarus international has been the difference in the play-offs for Ekaterinburg, turning them from pretenders to contenders.

The Belarus international, who has survived a couple of serious operations on both knees in her career, has played like the Bionic Woman for Laurent Buffard.

Leuchanka played for TEO Vilnius during the Qualifying Round and helped them reach the play-offs, averaging 13.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game with the Lithuanian team.

She also logged a lot of minutes - 33.8 per contest to be exact.

So Ekaterinburg knew what they were getting when they decided to lure her to Russia for the biggest part of the campaign.

She was, they must have thought, a tough, hard-nosed presence underneath the basket and one that should make them better.

In their Eighth-Finals sweep of ESB Lille Metropole, Leuchanka had nine points and six rebounds in Game One and eight points and nine rebounds in Game Two.

In the stunning 2-0 quarter-final series victory over previously unbeaten CSKA Moscow, Leuchanka had 10 rebounds to go with her six points and to make sure Maria Stepanova and Co didn't get any ideas about defeating Ekaterinburg on their home floor, she turned on the style with 14 points and 12 boards.

When considering that Ekaterinburg won those two contests 81-74 and 94-90, you know that every bit of that contribution from the 1.96m center Leuchanka was crucial.

What's interesting is that Leuchanka has averaged under 18 minutes per game with Ekaterinburg - 15 less than with TEO Vilnius - yet her production is just as good.

So what are we to make of the soon-to-be 25-year-old?

Maybe it's this. Whatever Ekaterinburg or any other club has paid her in the past, it's probably not been enough.

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