|Ivana Matovic knows what it takes to win the EuroLeague Women title and her experience is valuable to the ambitious Fenerbahce side|
By Paul Nilsen
Ask anybody in the know to write down a list of top class players who have consistently delivered season after season in EuroLeague Women and you can be assured the name of Ivana Matovic will be somewhere on it.
Unfortunately for the Fenerbahce center, it's fair to say she probably hasn't always achieved the recognition her consistency and quality probably deserves. Even when she has been afforded a rare note of recognition, such as All Star status last year, it was very much an exception rather than the rule.
Of course for many of the current Fenerbahce players, living in the shadows is something they have become even more accustomed too lately. For like it or not, it is an inevitable bi-product of suiting up alongside the EuroLeague Women phenomenon that is Diana Taurasi.
We caught up with the Serbian center to find out more:
FIBA Europe: Fenerbahce signed so many players in the summer and there were a lot of big names but is it understandable that Taurasi had the headlines?
"Diana Taurasi is the best player in the world and she deserves all the credit she gets as a player, but also as a great person, team-mate and a friend. It is a big honour to play with her and even if she is the getting the most attention, it is because she definitely deserves it..
"I think that all the players in my team are great professionals and I think it is unnecessary to speak about how good they are; they already know that!"
FIBA Europe: Talking of Diana, it must have been good for the team to show their quality when she has not played in the last few games and still win big - this will send out a big message to your rivals that you can still win without her?
"Always, the most important thing is to win - maybe Diana wasn't with us on the court in our last couple of games but she was a big support for all of us and that meant a lot for our team.
"The most important thing is that we managed to win when it was the hardest, we played as a team, and each player was doing whatever was necessary to accomplish one mutual goal - to win!"
FIBA Europe: Is it fair to say that sometimes you probably do not get enough credit and praise for your achievements as an individual player?
"In terms of my own situation, basketball is my job and I am simply blessed to do something that I love a lot. Like in any job, rewards and accomplishments mean a lot, so I am not going to lie, that's a case with me as well, but as I mentioned earlier, I enjoy and love playing basketball, so for me that's the biggest reward of all.
"I have been with EuroLeague Women teams for the past eight years, playing against the best players, so with that, I think I proved to myself, as well as others, how much I can do and how much good of a player I can be.
"If I was to be personally rewarded or acknowledged for my success on the court I will be extremely happy, but even if that does not happen, I will continue to play with the same passion and love because I am doing something I think I am good at, and most of all, what I love, and that is to play basketball."
|"Diana Taurasi is the best player in the world and she deserves all the credit", says Matovic of her American team-mate|
FIBA Europe : You were an All Star player last season for the first time. This seems incredible when you think of the numbers you have put up for many years now in EuroLeague Women?
"Being a part of the All Star game is definitely a big acknowledgement which any player can receive. It was my honour to play as an All Star last season, and If I was to be invited again,I would be more than glad to accept it.
"Did I deserve in those past eight years to be invited more than once? It's, not for me to comment and all I can do is to continue playing the best I can and hope that coaches, other players and fans will recognise my hard work."
FIBA Europe: You have a lot of strengths all over the floor at Fenerbahce but you and Nevriye Yilma - wow! You guys must really have some great battles in practice and push each other to get even better?"Nevriye is an experienced and great post player. My goodness she is so strong! It means a lot when you have someone like that playing against you each day at practice, that means we're getting better every day from being so competitive, but at the same time, the whole team is getting better as well."
FIBA Europe: Coach Ratgeber has obviously been to Final Four and won the trophy so it must be great having someone who knows what it takes to finish number one and has experience of working with big name players?
"Coach Ratgeber is one of the best coaches in women's basketball, which can be seen by many of his accomplishments and numerous titles. His experience means a lot to the team because players can ‘feed off' his self-confidence, and feel more safe and confident on the court."
FIBA Europe: Does he sing to you all in the locker room? You must have seen the video of him singing with his band?
"Our relationship with the coach is strictly professional, basketball is the only topic in the locker room, but I know once we make it to the Final Four, and hopefully win it all, we will all sing and enjoy it together."
FIBA Europe: When you won the EuroLeague Women Final Four with Spartak Moscow Region (Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje), you only played for two minutes in the final - this must have been a bitter-sweet experience?
"Yes, it is true, but I learned that I should always look on the bright side of things. So winning the EuroLeague Women title with Spartak meant a lot for me because I was playing and was a member of one of the best teams in the world at that time.
"Lots of players play basketball, and throughout their careers they don't get a chance to win the EuroLeague title Women, and I was lucky enough to achieve that and I am happy and grateful for it. Now it's time for Fenerbahce to do the same thing."
FIBA Europe : Does this memory make it more important for you to get there again in 2011 and play a bigger role with Fenerbahce next year?
"When I decided to sign the contract with Fenerbahce, this was one of the main reasons, if not the most important one. Fenerbahce is a big club with long tradition and I am very happy that I became a part of the club whose goals are similar to mine, and that is playing in the Final Four and being the best.
"I think the club management did a great job with putting this team together and I think our current record in EuroLeague Women as well as in the Turkish Championship proves that to be right. "
FIBA Europe : How good is this Fenerbahce team compared to the others you have played with in Euroleague Women - especially the 2008 Spartak team?
"Firstly, I am honoured that I have been able to play with many great clubs such as Sopron, Prague, Spartak and Gdynia. I have had some amazing moments. When it comes to Spartak and Fenerbahce, the biggest difference is that Spartak had lots of great, if not the best individual players in the world, and was winning the titles based on that.
"Perhaps Fenerbahce, in addition to having lots of great individuals is characterized by great teamwork and a fantastic atmosphere. Every player is valued, respected and treated equally, whether they play 5, 20, or 40 minutes on the court and consequently I think that is the biggest strength of my team right now."
FIBA Europe: Finally, what is the situation with the National Team right now. You are still only 27 - will you be going back as playing in EuroBasket Women must be tempting?
"Thank you for the ‘only 27' comment ha, ha! When it comes to the National team, I still do not know anything. I did not talk to the national team coach yet, and currently I am very busy and focused with the commitments to my current team."