With the first tip-off in the new EuroCup Women season drawing closer, we take a look at the prospects of the four contenders in Group A.
|Jelena Milovanovic is back in Russia, arriving via UE Sopron|
Dynamo Kursk were crowned champions some 18 months ago and are perennial challengers who once again have a star-laden roster. That will make them overwhelming favourites to not only top the group, but to reach the latter stages and perhaps even lift a second title in three seasons.
Head coach Alfredas Vainauskas will no doubt be delighted to get back to the business of club basketball, in the wake of his disastrous tenure at the helm of the Russian national team during the summer. And, the Lithuanian play-caller certainly has an impressive record in the competition.
He has a roster which would grace EuroLeague Women, possessing experience and vast firepower. His leader in the backcourt will be Epiphanny Prince who can put points on the board in a real hurry and with free-scoring Israeli guard Shay Doron also on board, they will be hard to contain, with veteran Elena Volkova offering a more reliable and steady hand.
The frontcourt sees the arrival of two new power forwards in the very different, but just as classy Jelena Milovanovic and Candice Dupree, who both have experience of Russia from their time with Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje - as well as extensive Euroleague Women track records too.
With Russian duo Ekaterina Lisina and Natalia Vodopyanova also on-hand, Kursk should have little difficulty in surging to pole position in the group.
Adana Botas have a respectable pedigree in the competition but much of their recent consolidation has been based on the phenomenal efforts of center Courtney Paris, who departed the club during the summer.
|Özge Kavurmacioglu is expected to develop further in Botas while contributing immediately to the team's success |
Head coach Aziz Akkaya will look to Hungarian veteran Anna Vajda and the experienced Bahar Ozturk to lead his young team - youth being an element which has always been at the forefront of the club over the years.
The current crop of young players include the likes of exciting guard Pelin Bilgic who can score points in the tournament and frontcourt duo Elif Emirtekin and Tilbe Senyurek.
They also had a major boost during pre-season when they lifted the prestigious Galenos Cup, to show they could be a tricky customer for their respective opponents.
They are joined by fellow Turkish outfit Homend Antakya, who are playing in EuroCup Women for only the second season in their history, having lost to Chevakata Vologda in the eighth-finals on debut.
They have big experience in Turkish national team forward Naile Cirak and have also been given a huge boost by persuading Fenerbahce to loan out the highly rated and versatile youngster Ozge Kavurmacioglu.
However, it has been the arrival of various import players which has really caught the eye - even if the club is in the process of deciding who they will pick for EuroCup Women action.
They have former FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year and star Lithuanian center, Ginatre Petronyte to give them a presence in the paint, alongside the experienced Aneika Henry who is a prolific rebounder.
They have also recently struck a deal with Croatian national team player Jelena Ivezic, who played with Ceyhan Belediye last season. Meanwhile Yvonne Turner is always a danger as she showed with Dynamo GUVD Novosibirsk last year in the tournament.
Finally, there is little doubt that Tsmoki Minsk are the underdogs of the Group, but with a potential capacity to surprise and especially on home soil in the Belarus capital.
They have only played in EuroCup Women once before, during 2010-11 and this time have inked American Kristen Morris to operate under the hoop and also her compatriot Chantell Alford, to provide some points production in the backcourt.
The former was particularly effective for Artego Bydgoszcz in the Polish League last year, averaging 12.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. There is also some Belarus national team experience at senior and youth level with the remainder of the team, including the vastly experienced Zhanna Haradzetskaya.