Basketball is on a high in Slovakia after the national team's successful qualifying campaign for next year's EuroBasket Women, and the city of Kosice in particular is buzzing with excitement.
Kosice hosted two of the team's games that Slovakia won to earn a place in the Final Round in Riga, Latvia.
The Slovakians beat Hungary on August 13, 66-47, and France on September 3, 63-55.
The same city will this season have a competitive EuroLeague Women team, Maxima Broker Kosice.
The club's general manager, Daniel Jendrichovsky, spoke to Basketball World News on behalf of FIBA Europe and looked ahead to the season.
FIBA Europe: Daniel, we wanted to ask you first about the success of the Slovakia women's national team in qualifying. Have their performances this summer created some extra excitement in the women's game in your country?
Daniel Jendrichovsky: We are very proud of their advancing because the national team lost some very good players before the qualification games. A team with (Ivana) Jalcova, (Luisa) Michulkova, (Alena) Kovacova, (Martina) Luptakova and (Regina) Palusna can be very dangerous. But our young players had a chance to show their quality and they did well. Women's basketball in Slovakia is very popular, especially in Kosice, where the national team won both important games against Hungary and France. People in Kosice showed again that they like women's basketball. It is hard to win against the crowd like this.
FIBA Europe: As always, the EuroLeague Women will be a very difficult competition. What are your thoughts on the make-up of your team? Kosice appeared to play quite well in the friendly tournament in Sopron last weekend. Was that the case?
Daniel Jendrichovsky: I am so sorry that we lost our superstar Janel McCarville and promising forward Luisa Michulkova. It will be very hard to replace them, but I think we did a good job when we signed our new players. Another problem is very short time to prepare because at 100%, we will play just one game together before the EuroLeague. And we had luck. The (New York) Liberty and (Los Angeles) Sparks lost in (WNBA) conference finals. (Catherine Kraayeveld of New York and Sidney Spencer of LA, both Americans, will join Kosice). The tournament in Sopron was very good and was the only chance to play against EuroLeague teams before the season. We were a little bit nervous because without both Americans and injured team captain Jalcova and (Anna) Jurcenkova, we had no depth on the bench. But I am very satisfied with our performance. We lost against Sopron in the last minutes, when (Linda) Frohlich and (Daniela) Cikosova were on bench fouled out. We were able to beat Pecs next, and the last game with USK Prague, it was very good and other than the last nine seconds, we led all the time. (Prague's) Evanthia Maltsi killed us with four-point play. She scored 10 points in the last two minutes and even a great performance from Frohlich and (Liron) Cohen, when they combined for 50 points, was not enough.
FIBA Europe: So you have lost McCarville and Michulkova, but tell us about the new players in your team and how they are fitting in.
Daniel Jendrichovsky: We signed Liron Cohen from Israel and German star Linda Frohlich. From the New York Liberty will come Catherine Kraayeveld and from the LA Sparks, Sidney Spencer. Along with six Slovak national team players, we can be very competitive. Liron and Linda showed their quality in Sopron, and they were leaders - just as we expected. Two Americans are sharp shooters and if they adjust to the team quickly, we can expect good results.
FIBA Europe: Arguably the biggest event in women's basketball last year happened at the Ice Arena in Kosice when you had an enormous crowd of 7,125 fans show up to watch the game against Spartak Moscow Region. Might something like that happen again this year?
Daniel Jendrichovsky: I am happy that my dream came true. It was the biggest moment in my career and we want do it again and set a new record. Our maximum is 8,500 fans and on December 17 against TEO Vilnius, we will have another chance. Now we know that we can do it. We have experience. We lost the game (last year) with Spartak, but it was our biggest victory ever (because of the number of fans who watched the game) and I believe that if we have chance to win a game there, the atmosphere will be unbelievable.