|Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various web-sites and publications across Europe. If you would like to contact Paul you can e-mail him here firstname.lastname@example.org.|
And what better place to start than with three-time champions Spartak Moscow Region and the one and only Janel McCarville? Having been out of action for the last couple of weeks with an injury, she's back to fitness and ready to resume one of the best seasons of her career to date.
The center and her Spartak colleagues will be searching for an incredible fourth straight ELW crown when they walk onto the floor at the Final Four, and here is her rundown of those tasked with realising that ambition.
Take it away J-Mac!
Marina Karpunina - Marina is one of the feistiest players I have ever seen on defence! She has a real attitude about her and going into any game, I always feel she is more focused on stopping her player than anything else. She has that Dwayne Wade mindset of ' get knocked down, but get right back up' and she always just keeps going!
McCarville is averaging 10.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this year for Spartak Moscow.
Sonja Petrovic - I'm so sad for ‘SoSo' with the injury she got in our last game at Fenerbahce to advance to the Final Four of the competition. She is an up and coming star and she was really starting to shine for us. We have also given her the nickname of ‘I.O'. which stands for ‘instant offence'. She knows what she is good at, knows what needs work and comes in daily always wanting to get better!
Anete Jekabsone-Zogota - "Netty....Netty...!" She is the most unselfish shooter in the game! If I could give her any advice what so ever, it would always be to ‘shoot the ball'. I love playing with her because of it though. She is so smart and makes such good decisions for the sake of the team and that's a rare quality to have!
Ilona Korstin - I don't care who you are, ‘Ilo' is going to get you with her jab step one way or another! She is one of the fastest on our team and it shows with her full-court speed. Better believe if you are even with her at the start, its a lay up on the other end.
Sue Bird - Just a solid all-round point-guard. Nothing too fancy for around ninety percent of the time and when you least expect it, she's going to whip out this amazing dime. She always has a smile on her face, and I'm not going to lie, it even looks like she is best friends forever with the refs even when she is yelling at them. Sue, please tell me - how you do it? I watched you on film the other day (you were so angry, and I heard how you talked to the referee) but when I saw it again on video, you had a smile on your face the whole time. I had to laugh - please teach me!
Irina Osipova - Ira is probably the second best passing post in the game today (besides me of course, ha ha). Long, lean and very quick, Ira is craft on the defensive end and I bet that I learned lots of nice little Russian secrets by watching her.
Diana Taurasi - ‘Dee' is ‘Dee'! I mean you all know what she can do. You can tell when she is angry, happy, having fun and all that hoopla. One thing people don't see is the work she puts in behind the scenes. Dee is not happy with being just good or even better than most. She doesn't settle with this and that is what puts her above everyone else - and I mean everyone. On a daily basis she is the first one in and last one out.
Ekaterina Lisina - Played with her last year and was happy Spartak picked her up at Christmas time this year. Big and mobile, she's able to shoot the jumper and is a force on the defensive end. You cannot teach 1.98m and from first hand experience, she can alter shots!
Natalia Vieru - Works hard, and asks questions. She is a young Russian who is playing with the big dogs and I know she likes it. She battles everyday with Syl and that's no easy task. She has got better as the year has gone on and I am so happy for her.
Kelli Miller - Kelly has hit more clutch triples this year than anyone on our team I reckon. I mean no joke, with all the times we had the shot clock running down, Kel would step up to the plate and bang it in. I mean watch out Dee, Kelly might be more clutch than you right now!
Sylvia Fowles - I mean wow. Seriously wow! Syl is a beast and if you don't know it, you will soon find out! It's been fun going up against her all year but its even better on game day when I get to watch her do work on other people, and not me for a change! If she gets you in the post it's basically over. She's been working on her moves and I feel she has really improved this year around the bucket.
Coach Chatman - one of the coolest cats in the game and thats the truth right there. Pokey knows basketball, she knows players and she knows what it takes to win. I am having a blast playing for her, and i wouldnt change a thing.
The Off Court Team
Christie - A real basketball junkie. Always working with players on their game. She is fun and brings a lot to practice and we're lucky she's here! I mean not only do we have an American Head coach, but an American assistant as well.
Srdjan - Focuses on strength and conditioning means it is great working with him, because he really listens to you and meets you with the best options.
Sasha - for the first three months, Sash would shoot half court shots one handed - backwards until he made it while we stretched, and bet he made it every time.
Steve - Loves ball and loves us! He really does his best to take care of us, and make it as easy as possible since we are so far from home. We are lucky to have him
I also want to mention and thank everyone behind the scenes that make this Spartak wheel go round. We have been through a lot and have stuck together making this season so special.
Finally, want to also pay respect to Shabtai. His main concern was always with us and making sure we were happy, having fun and enjoying Moscow. He treated everyone of us so well, and he is missed by all of us.
(Nilsen) Well, I am sure you will all want to thank Janel for that super contribution to our build up to the EuroLeague Women Final Four. However by doing the preview, this doesn't get her off lightly and I needed to find someone to tell us more about J-Mac herself. So, a big welcome to our second ‘PaulBall' guest columnist of the week - none other than Pokey Chatman! Take it away Coach.....
Janel McCarville - Firstly, I will think I had better start with the basketball and serious side of JMac. She has done a tremendous job of filling in a much needed position on our squad and is playing her best basketball as of late - which is just what we need as we continue in the Russian Superleague and prepare for the Final Four of EuroLeague Women.
She's not only able to stretch the defence with her shooting range, but I think she's one of the best passing posts in the league. She "will" find the open player, even in traffic. And let's not forget to mention she can be a "thief in the night" (9 steals)
J-Mac's experience, energy and enthusiasm is something I look forward to every single day in practice.
Now, the lighter side! Let's start with the hair! Style? Colour? Both game to game decisions, and one she doesn't take lightly. I'm actually at the point to where my first look as I walk into the locker room is J-Mac's wig! (ha, ha) I hope she has stock in the hair products she uses! She's witty, a jokester, never in a dull mood and always ready to have some fun - even if it's on a train to Kursk.
All jokes aside, her best asset is that she understands the game and is able to help others. This is something all coaches want, and I'm thankful I have that in JMac. Maybe don't print that, I'd hate to have her think I actually "like" her (ha, ha)!
You can get more insight by following:
FIBAEurope at www.twitter.com/FIBAEurope
EuroLeague Women with Paul Nilsen at www.twitter.com/EuroLeagueWomen
Janel McCarville at www.twitter.com/JanelMcCarville
Pokey Chatman at www.twitter.com/PokeyChatman