By Paul Nilsen
Week One of EuroCup Women swung into action and fans of women's basketball in Turkey and Sweden had plenty to cheer for.
Meanwhile, the tradition of the competition in providing a springboard for young and inexperienced players continued in fine style and with great results.
|Dynamo Kursk and Olimpia Grodno played their two fixtures back to back, with the Russian side winning by an average of 47.5 points!|
Before the season tipped off, you would have been offered pretty short odds on a Turkish team winning the EuroCup Women this year. Those odds just bdecame a little shorter after week one, when the Turkish clubs did their nation and league proud as Botas, Besiktas JK, Optimum Ted Ankara and Kayseri Kaskispor all racked up a victory to ensure a clean sweep.
When you consider that Fenerbahce and Galatasaray are both unbeaten in the EuroLeague Women, Turkey has a proud 11-0 record in European women's club competitions this season, further enhancing its reputation and continuing the momentum of a great year.
It will be interesting to see which team will be the first to spoil this immaculate and impressive record and, perhaps most importantly, it opens up the debate once more (albeit a very subjective one) of how close the Turkish league is edging towards establishing itself as the best women's league in Europe?
That is something up for debate of course and it depends on your criteria. I am sure the likes of France and Spain, amongst others, might raise their eyebrows at the very suggestion. Nevertheless, in terms of all round strength, you can't argue with six teams competing in European competition and posting good performances so far.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: THE SUPER SWEDES
Another country with plenty of reasons to smile is Sweden. With the National Team having languished in Division B recently causing them to miss out on any chance of reaching EuroBasket Women, the future now looks much brighter and even as a neutral, it's tough not to feel really positive about what is happening with many young Swedish players.
Of course teenager Farhiya Abdi is making a good impression during her rookie EuroLeague Women season in Brno, and things just exploded further last week as a youthful Telge Basket shocked Russian side Dynamo-GUVD with a debut 67-59 success. The likes of Cleopatra Forsman-Goga, Salome Kabengano and Amanda Zahui were all big contributors which bodes well for the future of Swedish basketball.
In particular, because with the main spine of the National Team in the form of the Eldebrink sisters and Louice Halvarsson still relativley young themselves, Sweden can potentially boast one of the most promising and exciting groups of players in Europe. The big test will of course come when they need to gel together and perform to realise that potential, which is easier said than done and realistically it may not be achieved for a few years just yet.
|18-year-old Telge Basket's center Amanda Zahui was the big star of week one, with a double-double of 22 points and 18 rebounds|
But, if Telge Basket can blaze a trail in EuroCup Women and make a big noise, then the experience attained by those players involved could prove invaluable, not only as individuals but also for the benefit of Swedish basketball in the longer term.
WEEK ONE RELIEF FOR DYNAMO
It always fascinates me how some teams manage to find such a contrast between their respective form in their own leagues and in European club competition - whichever way round that may be. Winning during EuroCup Women week 1 proved to be a blessed relief from the misery of domestic action for WBC Dynamo who interestingly have gone for an all Russian line-up. They had lost all three games in the Russian league before their success in Minsk against Horizont.
However, normal service was resumed over the weekend when the Russian club went 0-4 to find themselves rock bottom of the standings on home soil. No doubt they will be looking forward to welcoming Lombas, as they again look for EuroCup Women to offer them relief from this unsatisfactory start to the season.
CHAMPIONS CHARGE AHEAD
Ever since the joy witnessed when Elitzur Ramla were crowned EuroCup Women champions last season, it's all went downhill for women's basketball in Israel. A disastrous EuroBasket Women was followed by disputes in the Israeli league which saw many Israeli players refusing to play for their respective teams.
It was therefore a relief to see the reigning champions get out on court together and begin the defence of their title and especially a player like Shay Doron doing what she does best, by pouring in the points. Looking down the roster of the defending champions, it looks like they will be big contenders once again this season.
RISING STAR ROUND-UP
Leading the way this week was Swedish center Amanda Zahui. The 18-year-old posted a huge double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds in a quite incredible debut performance in Europe. Frontcourt partner Binta Drammeh also enjoyed a memorable first foray into European club competition with a creditable 7 points and 8 rebounds.
In fact, this was a game packed with rising stars and two players we will probably be seeing regularly in a senior Russian team vest in the future will be Anastasiya Shilova and Tatiana Petrushina. This duo represents a big part of the next generation for the reigning European champions although they didn't have their best nights, combining for 26 points but only a combined 7-of-26 from the field.
Gran Canaria 2014 are the sole representatives of Spanish Liga Femenina in the competition this season, but they boast several young players who are all worth tracking closely. Two players who shone brightly during the first week of action were powerful 17-year-old center Astou Ndour who claimed 15 points and 8 rebounds against Flying Foxes while 1995-born team-mate Leticia Romero was one of the youngest players to step out during Week 1 but enjoyed 24 minutes of action.
For many players and indeed -in the case of BBC Sint-Katelinje-Waver- entire teams, EuroCup Women can prove to be a steep learning curve. The Belgian club were soundly beaten by French powerhouse Arras but at least with the talented and influential Arvid Diels holding the reigns, you can guarantee these type of games will be used to help the players improve. Especially when their inexperience was highlighted perfectly by 1996-born Zarema Ganayeva managing to find 13 minutes of court action.
ALL EYES FORWARD
Aside from seeing if the Turkish clubs can maintain their nation's perfect start to the season during Week 2, it will be interesting to see if the young guns of Telge Basket will be able to compete at a high level on the road. They make a really tough trip to Besiktas JK, who boast two seasoned National Team campaigners and EuroBasket Women 2011 finalists in Yasemin Horasan and Ilona Korstin.
Dynamo Kursk meanwhile are definitely one of the frontrunners again and having racked up a win double against Olimpia Grodno during week one, they can take a big step to booking their place in the next phase with a home win over Maccabi Bnot Ashdod.