EUROBASKET WOMEN QUALIFIERS
|Veteran forward Kadidja Andersson is excited about the young talents that spring up in Sweden lately and have, or will soon, join the senior national team |
By Paul Nilsen
Kadidja Andersson has expressed her relief that Sweden now has the opportunity to regularly join the top table of women's basketball in Europe.
Having had to endure playing as a Division B nation after a disastrous relegation a few years ago, Sweden are seemingly ready to realise their potential in the new, refreshed structure which has dispensed with promotion and relegation.
Indeed few players are better placed than the experienced 32-year-old to assess how the change of format can benefit Sweden moving forward.
"For a while, Sweden was one of those ‘in-between nations' under the old system. Maybe not quite a Division A team but definitely not a Division B team either," explained Andersson.
"In more recent years, we have definitely felt that we have enough talent to really compete with the stronger nations so we're very excited to have this opportunity."
However, despite dripping with exciting young talent and having the chance to claim a place at EuroBasket Women in France next year, it could be tough for Sweden this summer in a difficult group containing Bulgaria, Germany, Romania and Spain.
"Our group is a strong one with good teams and we feel we're one of them," Andersson affirmed.
"We truly believe that we have a very good chance to qualify for EuroBasket Women next summer."
Whilst the forward is approaching the twilight of her career in a national team vest, she remains excited about times ahead both in the short, medium and long term - acutely aware there are few other teams in Europe than can boast the level of young talent and potential that Sweden has right now.
In fact, some people have mentioned the possibility of them evolving into a real power within women's basketball in the future.
"I don't think this is being too positive and I actually agree with this," said Andersson.
"Swedish basketball has never seen more players with such talent than we're seeing right now and they keep coming, which is the most exciting part.
"But, even though the level of skills and athleticism that many of these players possess is impressive, what has impressed me the most is their attitude and mental toughness.
"They don't see limitations, like perhaps some of the previous generations have to a certain extent - not within their own game, or with what the team they play for can accomplish.
"This is why I'm convinced Sweden will continue towards becoming a great force in women's basketball."
RISING STARS ABDI AND ZAHUI
One young player who has grabbed a lot of publicity in recent months in Sweden is Farhiya Abdi.
|Newcomer Farhiya Abdi led the Swedish U20 team to promotion last summer and then gained experience with Frisco Brno in her rookie Euroleague Women season|
After a crucial rookie season playing in EuroLeague Women with Fricso Brno, the talented forward was drafted by Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA and she is now ready to make the step up to the senior national team.
"I couldn't be happier or more excited for Farhiya and this accomplishment is of course great for both her and also for Swedish basketball," Andersson said of her new teammate.
"Farhiya is one of the most complete players I've ever had the chance to play with and her work ethic is amazing!
"She deserves all the success coming her way because she is as humble off the court as she is talented on it and I'm sure she won't have a problem staying grounded."
Unfortunately, another fine young Swedish talent in centre Amanda Zahui, who tore it up in EuroCup Women with Telge Basket last season, isn't likely to feature this summer.
Andersson though was quick to praise her form.
"Having Amanda on the team this year would have been a good experience for both her and us and hopefully she will be a part of the senior national team real soon.
"In order for Swedish basketball to get to that next level, we need all of our best players to come together and compete and push each other to excel on a global level.
THE EUROCUP WOMEN EXPERIENCE
Andersson also has nothing but praise for the impact Zahui's club has on Swedish basketball.
"Telge Basket has been one of the strongest club teams in Sweden for a very long time and they take great pride in developing young Swedish talents," she said.
"The team's results in its historical first EuroCup Women campaign were another testament to the high level of talent which exists in Sweden."
Andersson is certainly well-placed to comment on EuroCup Women matters since she had a terrific individual season with Slovak side MBK Ruzomberok who reached the latter stages of the competition and came within a whisker of inflicting a shock loss on eventual champions Dynamo Kursk.
"Yes, I really enjoyed myself this year and it was definitely one of my best experiences as a professional player," the veteran confirmed.
"We had great chemistry on and off the court and a good mixture of older players with lots of experience and younger players with great talent.
"Playing in EuroCup Women was the best part of this season. I don't think a lot of people thought we would even make it out of our group but we never doubted it.
"Each round we played better and better and in my mind we had a great chance of winning it all.
"I have played on other so-called underdog teams and I have to say that I do thrive off of trying to beat the odds and proving people wrong, so losing to Kursk by a few points was very tough.
"For me personally, having as much fun as I did this season showed in my own game as well, which was fun of course and I'm excited to see what opportunities that will lead to for next year."