|08 February 2006|
By Cindy Garcia-Bennett, PA Sport
Laia Palau grabbed the attention of the basketball world when her three-pointer at the buzzer forced overtime in Spain's Olympic win over the Czech Republic and now she is craving the limelight once more.
The Bourges forward is hoping people will once again sit up and take notice as she prepares for the EuroLeague Women's All-Star Game, especially with the event marking the beginning of 'The Year Of Women's Basketball' - a FIBA Europe initiative.
Palau told PA Sport: "I think the FIBA Europe initiative is a great idea but let's hope 'The Year Of Women's Basketball' is just the start of something greater - that it's not one year of women's basketball and then 10 years of men's basketball."
Just as she did with her remarkable shot against the Czechs in Greece, Palau pulls no punches when she talks about the women's game.
"We know that from a media standpoint, it's difficult to compete with the men's game but that's why it's important for us to get coverage," she said.
For Palau, the occasion not only recognises her rise to the top of the women's game but also highlights the strength of Spanish basketball.
Fellow Spain stars Amaya Valdemoro of defending EuroLeague Women champions BC Volgaburmash and Elisa Aguilar of Ros Casares also feature in the European team that will take on a 'Rest of the World' side in the All-Star Game.
"It's great to have three Spanish players in the All-Star Game," said Palau.
"It just goes to show how the level of the game in Spain has grown.
"Because of our achievements with the national team, the Spanish federation know that we have gone quite far and reached the medal games, and right now we are getting the attention that we have earned," Palau added.
"I'm hoping that initiatives like the All-Star Game will continue because it will help attract more people to the sport. It is a game the fans should enjoy and it should have television coverage.
"For me personally, it's an honour to be chosen among the best players in Europe. It makes me very happy."
During her time at Bourges, Palau has seen the passionate support professional basketball receives in France and she hopes Spanish fans will follow suit.
She said: "What I have noticed in Bourges is that we have a lot of support. This is a club that is very well established.
"We have lots of fans turning up for games, we have many companies that sponsor us and we have a very good team.
"The difference with Spain is that the players, once they begin their careers, are already considered professionals.
"They already pay national insurance, which in Spain is something they are trying to resolve. This is important because it highlights the fact that this is a career like any other," she added.
"And it's important for young players because they know they have a future as professional athletes."