By Paul Nilsen
|Eva Vitecková returns for Prague, who will count on her usual offensive output|
USK Prague has plenty to prove this season and will be banking on continuity being an essential ingredient for success.
Last year they flattered to deceive during a roller-coaster campaign and while the injury problems they endured (not least to Evina Maltsi) gave some mitigation, it's difficult not to come to the conclusion they could have done so much more.
This time around, head coach Lubor Blazek can at least give most of his players a second opportunity to get it right and improve on their placing last year which saw them eliminated at the first hurdle in the play-offs.
They have some great talent on their roster and the experience of playing together last season should really help them but they have to collectively step things up if they want to produce the kind of results their talent should facilitate.
What is particularly appealing about USK Prague this season is they have not only guaranteed the return of their major assets, but have actually strengthened their roster further with the addition of Anna Montanana and Frida Eldebrink.
They have depth in the frontcourt and a nice rotation of Delisha Milton-Jones, Ilona Burgrova, Petra Kulichova and Montanana. Four seasoned EuroLeague Women campaigners who are all hard-nosed players and won't give up anything too easily if they come ready to play every night.
While in the backcourt and on the wings, it could be argued there are few teams with the same kind of perimeter threat provided via the superb Eve Viteckova, young Katerina Elhotova and the newly arrived Eldebrink.
With Lindsay Whalen as playmaker and some reliable bench players, this is a seriously competitive roster which Coach Blazek will no doubt be delighted to be working with. I am even tempted to say dark horses for a podium finish but for that to happen, they will have to stay injury free and perform both at home and on the road.
|It is easy to forget that Katerina Elhotovais still only 22 since she has competed on the top-level for years now.|
EUROLEAGUE WOMEN 2011 - USK Prague finished third in Group C with a 5-5 record and were dumped out of the tournament in the eighth finals by Cras Basket Taranto.
THE GAP TO FILL - USK Prague have some great continuity for this season and no particularly huge gaps to fill from last season and that should be music to the ears of their fans.
STAR CHOICE - There are lots of potential choices but Eve Viteckova still stands out as the player who can drive the club to success. A veteran star of the highest calibre, her all-round game remains so impressive with her three-point shot still very much the jewel in her crown. She has played EuroLeague Women and producing at the highest level for over a decade but shows no signs of slowing down. A great player for club and country, she is a player who can take the game away from any opponent in a matter of minutes.
RISING STAR? - You will no doubt be struck by a sense of déjà vu when I say Katerina Elhotova for what will be one last time. She's still only 21 years old or at least for another week or so. This should be the last campaign before she cements herself as one of the bona-fide stars of the competition and she showed at EuroBasket Women during the summer just how influential she can be at the very highest level.
DID YOU KNOW? - The top five scorers from last season have all returned to the club.
THE NILSEN NOTE - Despite their talent, USK Prague were routed several times on the road last season. While there is absolutely no disgrace in finding victories away from home difficult to achieve in such a tough competition as EuroLeague Women, and even taking into account injury problems, the margin of those defeats was eye watering. They lost by 28 in Salamanca, 31 in Moscow, by double digits to a mediocre Galatasaray team and worst of all, by a staggering 34 points in the play-offs at Cras Basket Taranto. This has to improve this season in a big way if they want to realise their potential.