By Paul Nilsen
UMMC Ekaterinburg ace Cappie Pondexter has spoken of her special relationship with WNBA Championship winning team-mate Diana Taurasi ahead of their mouth-watering EuroLeague Women Semi-Final clash tomorrow night.
The former Phoenix Mercury team-mates will lock horns in one of the most eagerly anticipated duels of the weekend as Pondexter and her Ekat team-mates try to muster the defence to lock down the Spartak Moscow kingpin.
Pondexter is relishing the fact all eyes will be focused on her and the prolific Taurasi and believes energy and depth could give last years runners-up the edge this time round.
|Pondexter will face off with WNBA team-mate Diana Taurasi in the Semi-Finals.|
"It's always been this way and we love it. We both love to compete and that's what I believe makes us special"
"This weekend will be a great battle of four teams all determined to win a Euroleague Women Championship. Spartak are the defending champions and have been a tough matchup for everyone all season."
"We've matched up with them three times this season and both teams know each other inside out. The key for us to win is to rebound and defend with a lot of energy. That's something we've definitely worked on throughout the last few weeks and I'm anxious to see if it all pans out this weekend!"
"When UMMC comes out with energy and effort, no team has been able to match up with our depth. We are able to at times go ten deep which has been our main strength and will continue to be in this Final Four."
Ekat will be looking to bounce back not only from defeat against their arch rivals in Salamanca last year but also a heavy regular season loss in recent weeks - something Pondexter doesn't feel will adversely affect their chances this weekend.
"I mean no competitor likes to lose. You play the game of basketball to win but unfortunately there has to be a winner and loser and what determines that is what team worked the hardest during those forty minutes."
"We've learned a lot from both losses and haven't allowed our confidence to deflate in any way."
Indeed Pondexter feels her team are better placed than ever to lift their first title in seven years thanks to some impressive re-enforcements.
"We've definitely improved when we added Celine Dumerc , Ann Wauters and Candace Parker to the roster."
"The versatility and athletic ability of Candace has been a huge addition for us. She's a special talent and will definitely be a key factor in determining if we are champions or not. It makes our team more lethal for sure."
It's been another impressive year for the guard performance and numbers wise although she did miss out on another appearance in the EuroLeague Women All Star game back in February.
Underlining her own point about the depth of Ekat, she fell foul of the two player per club rule and had to stand in line behind Sandrine Gruda and Agnieszka Bibrzycka.
"I was happy we were able to have to great quality players represent us. My role on this team is to make sure we win games and to bring the energy we need from the beginning."
"I'm just thankful I had the opportunity to play in two Euroleague Women All-Star games before."
It's been something of a frenetic time of late for Pondexter after she initiated her trade from Phoenix to New York - something which caused quite a stir in the WNBA. Some fans have been left far from impressed but after spending eight months playing overseas in Russia, the 27 year old remains defiant, insisting she has made the right move and isn't in any danger of being distracted when it comes to this weekends action.
"I'm mature enough to separate the two. I'm excited about my new team but I know why I'm here and that's to help win a Championship both in Russia and Europe."
"It's a strange situation for some fans and I totally understand. My decision to leave Phoenix had to do with my personal goals which I wanted to accomplish off the court as well as beginning a new challenge in my life on the court."
"I'm excited to be playing every night in one of the best arenas in the world as well as reuniting with Ann Donavon and college teammates from Rutgers."
"This is a huge opportunity for me and one I definitely deserve. No matter what, at the end of the day Cappie needs to be happy!"
On the subject of which, picking up a EuroLeague Women Final Four winners medal this Sunday night would certainly help with that.