PaulBall: Hometown Hero

08 April 2010
Paul Nilsen Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various web-sites and publications across Europe. You can contact Paul by emailing him at 

Spanish national team star Anna Montanana has more reasons than most to look forward to this weekend. For the center will welcome the Euroleague Women Final Four to her home city and that makes her the perfect choice to take the Paulball reins and give us the inside track on hosts Ros Casares and Valencia.

Having enjoyed another solid season in the wake of her WNBA debut last summer, Montanana will also come up against a familiar face in her quest to make it to Sunday's Final. Like a lot of elite Spanish players, she was once under the wing of Jose Hernandez who as Wisla Can-Pack Coach will be hoping to deny his former starlet the opportunity of lifting a EuroLeague Women Championship in front of her home fans.

Not that this will faze Montanana who certainly loves a challenge - as spelled out with her willingness to undertake a Paulball hijack and give us a rundown of her Ros Casares team-mates.

Take it away Anna!

Hi everyone! When I accepted to write this piece about my team, I thought it would be one of the easiest articles I have ever had to write. Even though it would have been easier to write in Spanish of course, a little challenge is always welcome and it also gives me an opportunity to show my friends that my English is still good  ha, ha!

I have been asked to describe my teammates, and must say that this is the most enjoyable team I have ever played on. They all make basketball really easy and we all have fun playing with each other. Besides that, it is a really calm and easy going group of people, and you won't hear that many times if you are ever talking about Spanish teams (the calm part). So, here I go!

Elisa Aguilar - ‘The Captain'. She is what a true point-guard has to be; a silent boss but when she talks, everyone listens. She is the soul of this club and the team, always there for everyone and a great listener. She is a great person with true values and a great friend. We share a very important friendship, at least for me, because I know she will always be where I need her to be, and that's the way she also plays. She is ready to make the important pass or a huge 3 pointer, After 7 years in Ros Casares, I think this Final Four is bery much a gift for her.

Laia Palau - ‘The Creator'. She loves to be a free spirit with an individual style. On the court she is a pure talent, adding this to her great athleticism, she is a very skilled player. She loves to drive and make the impossible pass, always finding the open player with her excellent court vision. Laia loves to play the drums, travel in her Van, go to dancing classes, read biographies. Isa Sanchez and Laia make a very funny duo on the national team!

Jana Vesela - ‘The Silent Player'. A 1.95m guard, very versatile and very rare. She moves, dribbles, plays defence and shoots as if she is 1.80m. She is also a good defender, she has great coordination and helps a lot with her rebounds. She is as quiet on the court as she is out of the court, you may not realise that she is playing but at the end of the game she gets her work done. Off the court she is the same, quiet but you can't let her fool you ha ha!

Amaya Valdemoro - ‘The Competitor'. Amaya has one of the greatest resumes in women's basketball: She has won almost every individual award and played in every competition. Her career has been one of the greatest. She is a predator, it doesn't matter in what situation she is in physically or mentally, she will get on the court and try to demolish you. You just can't be late with Amaya or give her too much room. Her mentality is what has been impelled her to be who she is, and the reason she is so unique. She is another of my great friends, funny and very generous, I feel like she has been in almost every important moment in my life, and I hope we can share many more.

Belinda Snell - ‘The Multi-Tasker'. She is a great competitor, tough and smart. She makes life easier for us, it must feel great to have a 99.9 shooting percentage, right Belinda? I have never played with a killer like that! She has a sub-machine gun as an arm ha ha! Her basketball IQ is great too. I personally enjoy playing with her a lot. She is another silent one but with some poison in her veins, which I love. It takes a little bit longer to get know her, but it marks when you do!

Anna Montanana - (Courtesy of Delisha Milton-Jones) ‘The X Factor'. Anna is a player with so much versatility in her game and she will be a key contributor in the process of us winning the Final Four this weekend  She is like our X-Factor once again because she is a forward that can put the ball on the floor when she needs to and shoot the outside shot as well!

Ljuba Djarlaca -  ‘The Skills'. She is the typical Serbian who learned basketball when Djordjevic, Bodiroga, Kukoc and co. were in the game. I used to love to watch these players. She has mastered all the technical aspects of basketball, a great passer and shooter who understands basketball very well. She moves smoothly and with style but she doesn't survive on talent alone - she is a tough player. I have definitely been impressed by her toughness. No matter what her situation has been during the season, she always showed fight and competitiveness and the most important one for me, all with a smile on her face. She is my buddy in the team, I love her personality, a calm and easy going person but with true values, which is the most respectful thing in any person. 

Delisha Milton - ‘The Black Spider'. Dee is one of the most competitive people I have ever played with. We started our friendship being huge rivals, she was a great challenger for me and remains so. An amazing athlete and all around player she lives for basketball. She is still playing like she is 25, and sorry Dee for saying your age, but at 35, she is still demonstrating that she is one of the best forwards in the game. It's pretty amazing the hours she spends taking care of her body and taking her game to other levels. Off the court she is a really generous and humble person. She really tries to help everyone, and the kind of person that doesn't allow that many people to get close to her but when she does, you have a guard in your life. If she would just get her electronic game a little updated, her life will be great ha ha!

Erika De Souza - ‘The Beast'. She has incredible physicals skills to play sports, I feel that she could have played whatever sports she liked (well not soccer, her footwork on the ball isn't the greatest, she doesn't represent Brazil in that area, ha ha! She has tremendous legs, her calf muscles are from another galaxy. She is a really mobile post player. She is almost 2 metres but she runs and jumps as if she is much smaller. She is a tremendous rebounder and uses the glass as not many post players can. She is also a life saver, she doesn't leave any rebound for the rest of us humans!. As a person she is as quiet as you would never expect for a Brazilian. I love the relationship she has with Delisha, half English, half Spanish speaking but both of them are the happiness of our locker-room. Erika is also very kind, generous and stress free person, who always brings positivity wherever she is!

Also, I want to have a special mention for Becky Hammon, Cindy Lima and Gina Palusna. They help in their own different ways and they are a piece of this project. Finitto!

It looks, after what I've written, as if I have an All-Star team, but for me I think we do. Everyone respects one another which naturally allows each of us to be ourselves inside the locker-room and there is a great atmosphere. I believe all these great qualities will show at the weekend.

I really hope all the visitors for the Final Four have a great time in my city, Valencia. There are many things to do and places to visit, it's an amazing city. In 1993, the Valencian team Dorna Godella hosted and won the Final Four, and I was one of the thousands of spectators. I also went down to celebrate with the players as a crazy fan. Its one of my best memories growing up and it would be a dream to do it as an adult again.

Good luck to everyone and ‘nos vemos' en Valencia!

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EuroLeague Women with Paul Nilsen at


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