Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various websites and publications across Europe.
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The overriding theme of EuroLeague Women Week 7, was the perpetual revolving door of both injuries and comebacks.
BITTER-SWEET WEEK FOR INJURY PLAGUED BOURGES
Whilst, to the immense credit of Bourges who are juggling the injury conveyor belt and find themselves sharing a 5-1 record with Sparta&K M.R. Vivnoje in Group A, head coach Valerie Garnier is probably yearning for the day when she gets a clean bill of health.
It's been a long wait on the side-lines for Styliani Kaltsidou, but she made a winning return to action for the French side at Brno, and that's a real bonus. I have always liked the hard-nosed game of the Greek wing player, and even taking into account the fine job her national team-mate Zoi Dimitrakou did in her absence before moving on to Kayseri Kaski spor, we shouldn't overlook the importance of Kaltsidou stepping out again.
But just when Coach Garnier gets back a starting five player, she has to do without Swedish kingpin Frida Eldebrink who seems destined to be laid low for several weeks and will potentially not return until the new calendar year due to a troublesome wrist injury which requires extensive rest and is also likely to give Swedish national team coach Lars Johansson a few sleepless nights.
PLENTY FOR GALA TO CHEER DESPITE LOSS
As UMMC Ekaterinburg head coach Olaf Lange insisted before his teams' match-up with Galatasaray, the result was never truly going to have a significant bearing on the remainder of the season, and specifically, any future match-up at the Final Eight.
In my opinion, the honours were shared in Istanbul, since Ekat edged matters by a point, but I actually thought it was a moral victory for the hosts who drew satisfaction from seeing the irrepressible Sylvia Fowles back in action, and can now point to the mitigation of still preparing to welcome back their galactic Euro stars, Alba Torrens and Nevriye Yilmaz.
On that basis alone, Gala fans should be pleased with the progress from their team. Unlike last season, when from day one I criticised the potential error of placing too many eggs in too fewer baskets, this time they have real strength in depth and much better balance.
Should Candace Parker not play for Ekaterinburg in the New Year due to the arrival of Sue Bird, there would be a more robust argument that Wauters, Lyttle, Yilmaz and Fowles would exceed the Ekat frontcourt in terms of depth and quality.
CLAUDIA POPS BACK TO PLAY
|Claudia Pop returned to action in week 7 for Municipal Targoviste, following an extended period on the sidelines|
Another player I was very happy to see back in action was Romanian talent Claudia Pop. Highly rated, it was a shame when she got injured at the end of last season. She not only missed the first six weeks of EuroLeague Women action with Municipal Targoviste, but she also missed out on EuroBasket Women qualifying games with Romania.
After a stellar youth career, I hope Pop can now begin to show her value as part of an elite-level roster, and it will be interesting to see if George Dikeoulakos can find a role for her in his team as she gets stronger and back to her best.
Now 23-years-old, Pop must make up for some lost time and Romania should also reap the benefits from her getting this kind of experience alongside quality players and some of her national team colleagues.
MALASHENKO MAKES UP FOR DABO
Olesia Malashenko came back from a long-term injury for Arras a few weeks ago, but it was good to see the 21-year-old Ukrainian forward grab a 16-point haul on Wednesday night for the French club.
It was particularly gratifying since her fellow front-court partner Astan Dabo went down with an ACL injury which was a major blow to Arras and the player.
Since the African prospect was drafted to the WNBA, things haven't exactly gone smoothly. Firstly she missed out on the Olympic Qualifying Tournament with Mali, and has now suffered this latest setback. I hope she recovers and heals well, and I will be pencilling in a return date for next season when I look forward to hopefully seeing more of her, both in the French League and also in EuroLeague Women.
To further bolster their roster, Arras have turned to Iwona Zagrobelna, a center who has spent the last three seasons playing in the second tier of the Polish League.
|Paulball would like to wish Vega Gimeno the best on her road to recovery|
NO-GO FOR GIMENO
Finally on the merry-go-round of player returns and departures, good luck in recovery to Vega Gimeno of Rivas Ecopolis who recently suffered an ACL injury in the game at Brno. It's a real shame, because she had really come alive and stepped up this season for her team by producing a double-digit average. Consequently, she may have snuck onto the Spanish EuroBasket Women roster had that kind of form continued.
THE SCENT OF LAVENDER
Yes, there's a sweet smell in the air around Schio right now and that's hardly surprising with the Italian side having won five of their first six games. Their latest success was a pulsating win against Group B favourites Fenerbahce, mainly due to some fine work by Jantel Lavender who is finding her feet in the competition. Over the course of the last three games, she has accumulated 59 points; but more impressively, she has shot at 76.7% from the field, and added nine rebounds per-game. With Elodie Godin also excelling in the frontcourt, Schio look to have real teeth inside.