The Slovakian city of Kosice is buzzing right now over its team in the EuroLeague Women, Kosit 2013.
And 1.98m center Janel McCarville is a very big reason why. McCarville, the team’s USA international, had her finest hour in the competition last week by tearing apart Lotos PKO BP Gdynia, scoring 28 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and coming up with seven steals.
That she could put up numbers like that is no surprise because McCarville has been, since her college days at Minnesota, one of the country’s most promising players.
What caught everyone off guard was that she even played.
||We’ve been pumping it all week long, to get the fans to come and watch, our owners got a lot of people coming.
McCarville had missed a week of practice with a groin and hip flexor injuries, something she picked up in warm-ups before the USVO game that prevented her from playing in that contest.
“The day of the (Lotos PKO BP) game, I felt pretty good so had it taped up, had a heat pack, went through the warm-ups fine and play.
“Yes, it kind of worked out well, with a dramatic finish, too.”
Oh yes, the drama.
McCarville, with the game knotted at 77-77 and just four seconds from the end, went up strong for a lay-up and scored to secure the 79-77 victory.
That success, and the way Kosit 2013 have been playing in the EuroLeague Women, has led to a record attendance of more than 7,000 fans set to turn out for Wednesday’s game against defending EuroLeague Women champions Spartak Moscow Region.
If the number is confirmed it will set a new attendance record for a EuroLeague Women game, the previous being 5,500 from a MiZO Pecs vs. Bourges game on March 5, 2004.
Spartak are loaded with a few Russia national team players, USA internationals Diana Taurasi, Tina Thompson and Sue Bird, and Australian superstar Lauren Jackson.
“It’s going to be hard against them,” McCarville said.
“They do have a star-studded lineup, but you don’t look at it as a whole. You just have to take it one possession at a time, don’t get too far ahead of yourself as to who they have. You have to take it slow."
There will be no shortage of intensity in either team, that’s for sure, because of the enormous crowd.
“We’ve been pumping it all week long, to get the fans to come and watch, our owners got a lot of people coming.
“Our arena holds 3,000, but they expected more to come, so we moved to the hockey arena which holds about 10,000, we’ve heard more than 7,000 can end up coming.
“It’s a little bit of everything. They’re coming out for our team, we’re in the EuroLeague, not a lot of people expected us to be as good as we are.
|Luisa Michulkova and coach Vladimir Karnay have played a key role in Kosit's unexpected success|
“The first time (against Spartak), we lost by two, although they didn't have Taurasi and Bird yet, and we (only) lost to Valenciennes by four, so a lot of good things have been happening. The Slovakian community has gotten on board, a lot of people have caught on to how good we are.”
Another reason for the home fans to turn out is the presence of Natalia Hejkova, the Slovakian who is the head coach of Spartak and an assistant coach for Russia's national team.
McCarville should feel right at home on Wednesday.
At Minnesota, she says, the Golden Gophers averaged 10,000 fans a game and one year she reached the NCAA Final Four and took on Taurasi and the University of Connecticut before a crowd of 18,000.