The Ukrainians, who are flying high at 2-0 in Group A of the EuroBasket Women Additional Qualifying Round after wins over Bulgaria and Germany, could get 26-year-old captain Inna Kochubei back.
The TIM-SKUF Kyiv point guard has been out of action with a broken ankle but is now fully recovered and could feature in the game against the Bulgarians as Ukraine attempt to take another big step towards qualification for this summer's EuroBasket Women.
She averaged 5.9 points, two assists and 2.6 rebounds per game in Ukraine's Division A games.
Kochubei gave this interview to Oleksiy Naumov on behalf of FIBA Europe.
FIBA Europe: Inna, how are you feeling after your injury? Have you been able to recover and are you expecting to play in any of the remaining games?
Inna: I feel great! I think I'm ready to play. I've been practicing with the team for a week now, so it's only up to the coach to decide. I have no physical limitations.
|Iryna Biryuk has also been fantastic for Ukraine so far, says Kochubei|
FIBA Europe: How disappointed were you after you sustained your injury and learned you would not be able to help your national team during very important games of the additional qualification?
Inna: Oh, the disappointment was big! At first I just felt sorry for myself, then I felt sorry my dream of playing at the EuroBasket was in jeopardy. But when the emotions cooled down, I realized such is life and it can happen to anyone. Plus, you have to always find something positive in each situation and I found something for myself: I finally got a chance to have the much needed rest. I haven't been able to relax for the past five years: regular season would be replaced by the national team games, which would be replaced by another season. This time I've been away from the game more than enough and I miss it so much. I am refreshed and motivated and ready to play at the highest level.
FIBA Europe: How difficult is it to be on the bench and realize you can't help your team on the court, that all you can do is cheer your teammates up? What did you feel during these moments?
Inna: You have to understand that when you are on the bench, it feels like you are on the court. You are constantly in the game with your emotions, thoughts, suggestions. But not being able to help with your game is still quite hard.
FIBA Europe: Which one of your teammates can you single out as being outstanding based on the two games the team has played?
Inna: Everybody played great in both games, but Olexandra Gorbunova was as usual phenomenal. She is so talented. But I want to mention Iryna Biryuk, who is the team's veteran and one of the most experienced players. She's been playing with so much passion and determination. She's been giving advice and been supporting the younger players that have a lot of respect for her. She showed herself as a true leader that plays a huge role on the team.
FIBA Europe: What do you have to do to win against Bulgaria on Wednesday?
Inna: Everybody has to come out on the court and show the maximum of what they've got. We should not be saying after the game that there were some things we could have done but didn't. We've got the team spirit and we've got the will to win. I think this should bring us a positive result.
FIBA Europe: You are now familiar with the Bulgaria team. Which players do they have that are most dangerous?
Inna: First of all, it's Noel Kuin. She is a very gifted player and her team tries to feed her the ball on every possession. She can penetrate, but she can also very effectively shoot from the outside, which is what they do in the U.S. If we can take her out of the game right from the start of it, the win will be ours.
FIBA Europe: Last question. What do you have to do to avoid the mistake of last year, when after beating Germany in convincing fashion (93-39) at home you unexpectedly lost to them on the road?
Inna: There were a lot of factors that contributed to our loss there, but I can say just one thing: we have to come out in Germany and play with twice the energy we had in Kyiv not to let any of them take affect again.