She's usually the smallest woman on the court but that has never fazed Australia's Alicia Poto.
One weekend away from a second FIBA EuroLeague Women Final Four title, the dazzling Opal talked exclusively to PA International's Doug Booth on behalf of FIBA Europe about life and basketball in the Czech Republic.
FIBA Europe: "Your club Gambrinus Brno cruised to a 3-0 series victory over USK Praha to become the Czech women's champions for the 10th time last week. Brno dominated each of the games, winning the third 80-48. What does this mean ahead of your clash in the FIBA EuroLeague Women Final Four when you face Mizo Pecsi from Hungary."
Poto: PECSI are a very solid group. They're obviously doing something right to be in the same position they're in every season. The surprise factor about them is that they don't have as much talent on paper as other teams, but they work very effectively together.
|Alicia Poto |
FIBA Europe: "Where can they be beaten? They obviously rely a lot on eastern bloc players (no US or Aussie imports). Is that good?"
Poto: "I think we need to concentrate on what we do well. We run well, which causes a lot of problems for many teams so we're fine tuning that in practice. Of course, PECS have a weakness and it needs to be exploited to help us win the game. All I know is, we'll be ready for them."
FIBA Europe: "Dalma Ivanyi is obviously a great player for the Hungarians. She is averaging 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists in the FIBA EuroLeague Women this season and she is also WNBA-bound again after signing with the San Antonio Silver Stars. How do you stop this scoring machine?
Also Timea Beres, their big centre?"
Poto: "Dalma is a great player. She's dynamic and very smart. It's obvious she's a catalyst to a lot of things they do well. So for me, it's a matter of slowing her down and not allowing her to control everything. What we want to do is stop their main players and force other players to step up to win them the game."
FIBA Europe: "Who do you want in the final - home side (Samara) or Lietuvos?"
Poto: "No one wants to play the home team in the opening semi-final. Of course, it would be nice to play Lietuvos in the final as we've played them this season and we may have an advantage over them being this their first Final Four appearance. As for Samara, they have so much talent and offensive firepower that they'll be tough to beat on any day."
FIBA Europe: "Jan Brobovsky is a fine coach. Can you give us an insight into his coaching technique. Is this your first experience as a player with him."
Poto: "It's always interesting to learn about different basketball cultures. Coach Brobovsky knows exactly how to get the best out of his players. He likes to work on your individual skills while incorporating that into the team context. He's surprisingly calm and keeps everything simple - especially because he's got a lot of young player's on his team. It's all about doing the simple things perfect and the rest falls into place."
FIBA Europe: "As a professional athlete, how difficult/easy is it to live away from home? How do you cope?"
Poto: "It's not easy to be away from family and friends at any time or under any circumstances. With playing in Europe, it comes with the territory and it's the one thing that can't be negotiated. Everyone copes differently but as for me, what's important is being able to get back to Sydney at least once during the season (usually Christmas) or having family visit me."
FIBA Europe: "Taj McWilliams-Franklin appears to be a fine example of a true professional. Tell me how she works and looks after herself. How big an influence is she on you?"
Poto: "It's been great getting to know Taj McWilliams-Franklin both on and off the court. I've learned a lot from someone who has had plenty of experience both throughout Europe and in the US. She's also able to balance both a career and a family which I admire so having her to learn from has been great."
FIBA Europe: "How do you pass the free time"
Poto: "I'm pretty much your average person who enjoys the simple things in life. I love spending time with family and close friends but I'd have to say that shopping is a definite passion. I also like to listen to music, go to the movies, eat out with family and friends and watch rugby union.
FIBA Europe: "What are your immediate plans? WNBA? Back to Oz?"
Poto: "Not sure. I'm taking everything year by year, so who knows. I'd love to come back and play for my home club Sydney Flames, but for now I'm concentrating on playing in Europe.
FIBA Europe: "Why are you called Pottsy?"
Poto: "It was actually a spelling mistake in a basketball booklet at a tournament I was playing in. They spelled my surname "POTTS" instead of Poto and it stuck. It didn't take long for people to start calling me "POTTSY".
FIBA Europe: "Happy 27th birthday (March 28). How did you celebrate it?"
Poto: "I seem to be getting older in Europe a lot faster than I was getting older at home. I was actually sick in bed that whole Easter weekend, so all I did was watch DVDs in bed while eating soup. The highlight of my day was an unexpected family conference call which helped cheer me up."
FIBA Europe: "What are your plans with the Opals, who you have played with since 1999."
Poto: "The national team is something I'll be up to when I get home. I've about five weeks rest until I have to go into camp. As for what I'm up to next year? It's back to Brno for another season."
FIBA Europe: "Team-mates Zuzana Zirkova, Ivana Vecerova, Eva Viteckova, Hana Machova and Jana Vesela - can you explain their roles and why they are so important to the team's chemistry."
Poto: "Team-mates are always important because without them you can't get it done. We're lucky as we've a lot of depth on our bench. Machova, Vecerova and Zirkova are the more senior, experienced players in the team who need to be playing well for us to be effective. As for Viteckova and Vesela, although young, they're very talented and they've both got the ability to change a game."
FIBA Europe: "How do you overcome your lack of height (1.66m)? It is will power, determination, physical strength? What's the secret?"
Poto: "My height has never been an issue for me. Of course, I'd love to be a little taller but being short seems to make me more determined. It's not just about speed and agility. It's about being able to read and control a game that makes height irrelevant. That's something I can do although there's always room for improvement. It's also important to be a good communicator both on and off the court."
FIBA Europe: "Do you want another Olympics in three years' time?
Poto: I'd love to continue representing my country at the elite level and I will put myself in the best possible situation to be selected. My immediate short-term goal is to win the Final Four for a second time. The previous occasion was with Bourges in 2001. As for 2006, my goal is to be selected for the World Championships."