EUROBASKET WOMEN QUALIFIERS
By Jeff Taylor
|Evina Maltsi was the top scorer at EuroBasket Women 2009 with 22.6 points per contest|
Legends are made at the EuroBasket Women.
Evina Maltsi certainly was.
A terrific player who competed for Greece at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and helped the host country reach the Quarter-Finals, the 1.80m shooting guard then showed up for national team duty in the summers that followed as the Greeks cemented their status as the dangerous outsider.
Everyone knows Maltsi's finest hour was in Latvia at the EuroBasket Women three summers ago in Latvia, when she did her best imitation of a superhero and led the Greeks to their best-ever finish of fifth place.
That clinched a spot for the Greeks at the World Championship for the first time.
It was an improbable run led by Maltsi, who averaged 22.6 points per game and often scored in dramatic fashion.
She then provided much of the inspiration for Greece as they first knocked off Slovakia and then shocked Italy with a second-half comeback and won 60-56, a result that put the Greeks in the 2010 World Championship.
Maltsi had 26 points in that triumph.
It was impossible to utter the words women's basketball in the year that followed and not think about Maltsi, who had done a Greek dance on the center of the Riga Arena court with her teammates after the win over the Italians.
"That was a great, great experience and if I see it from the outside, I think it was the best of my career," Maltsi said on Monday.
Right now, Maltsi is back home in Greece, spending time with her family and resting after a long season in Poland with CCC Polkowice.
Next year, she will play professionally in Turkey.
Where Maltsi will not be this summer is with her national team when it competes in the Qualification Round for EuroBasket 2013 in France.
When asked if she was calling an end to her famous national team career, Maltsi answered: "I didn't announce my retirement but I just told them (Greek Basketball Federation) I'm not going to play this summer. But it's possible I may not play next year as well.
"For me, it was too long until July 14, this qualification, and I decided I didn't want to participate.
"I didn't tell them I was done with the national team and I wouldn't play anymore.
"Now, we'll leave it open."
Maltsi-less Greece will play against Finland, Latvia, Italy and Luxembourg in Group E.
|Styliani Kaltsidou is another prominent absence for Greece|
Their last game is against Luxembourg on 14 July.
To reach the Final Round, Greece will have to claim a top two spot.
"I think Greece was always an outsider for everything we participated in, but we're a team," Maltsi says.
"We play good basketball and I think we're always very competitive.
"We didn't have tall players or physical advantages compared to other teams.
"This summer, it's not going to be any easier because Stella (Kaltsidou) is also injured, and I'm not playing, but I think the team will also be very competitive.
"The team has the basics that we built with (coach Kostas) Missas and now it's just a continuation."
Maltsi says the Greek women, if they are focused under new coach Alekos Daglas, will have a good chance.
"Because this is the Qualification Round and they are (opposing) teams at the same level, I hope they will make it," she said.
"I'm very positive. No one really knows, we can't predict the future.
"We're outsiders again, but I really believe the team is very competitive, will play hard defense and good quality basketball.
"I hope they will make it and they will take the ticket to France."