By Paul Nilsen
Beretta-Famila Schio have been flying the flag for the veterans in Euroleague Women this season having enjoyed a fruitful tournament to date thanks mainly to the contribution of their experienced campaigners.
At the heart of that renaissance has been the classy Raffaella Masciadri, a long term resident in Schio who has continued to show the good form she displayed with the Azzurri at EuroBasket Women last summer.
With Schio having already qualified for the knockout stages, it seemed like the perfect time to speak with the former LA Sparks star and get her take on all things EuroLeague Women and to find out a little more about her rejuvenated team.
FIBA Europe: Tell us a little about the EuroLeague Women season so far. You and the guys seem to have done a good job and the veterans (maybe experienced players sounds more polite) are definitely leading the way -we see you also got your highest ELW career score!
Raffaella Masciadri: I'm very happy about our season right now. With Schio we didn't reach the second phase of the competition for many years, so we were (and still are) very determined to play as well as we can right from the first game in October until our final game. The veterans such as myself, Moro and Macchi are leading the way because in the past years we lost too much, so I guess we want to take a kind of "revenge" in EuroLeague Women this season! Also this year we are a more of a complete team, with 12 players, all determined to emerge in Europe. The big difference between the past seasons is that we have had no injuries right now (touch wood), so this has meant we could play strong right since the beginning of the season.
FIBA EUROPE: You have the two most difficult teams to play in weeks 9 and 10 and maybe you still maybe have something to prove as you have not defeated either Halcon Avenida or Wisla Can Pack. Do you think you must prove you can beat the bigger teams before the next stages?
Raffaella Masciadri: I think there is no real big difference between us and Wisla or Halcon Havenida. Comparing to the first games against them in November I think that we have improved playing as a team. We know each other better now and we are aware that if we play aggressive for forty minutes, we can play at the same level of other teams.
FIBA Europe: It seems like Schio have kept out of the news. All the talk in Group B has been about Wisla Can Pack and Halcon Avenida because of the Jose Hernandez connection and the unbeaten record of Wisla. Was this better for you and the team or would you have maybe liked more attention and congratulations on your performances?
Raffaella Masciadri: During my career I've learned that it's better if the media talks about my team at the end of the season or during the latter parts of it. Just because it normally means that we won something or we reached a higher level of the championship. So now it's normal that the attention is on Wisla because they are doing a really great job, winning all the games. And also on Halcon Avenida because they played the Final Four last year and they are one of the leading teams this year. I think Schio has to take one step more to have more consideration in Euroleague Women and now we have this opportunity of going on in the second round! For sure I know that media will talk about us more from this point onwards!
FIBA Europe: What do you think of Candace Parker going to UMMC Ekaterinburg and the impact this will have on EuroLeague Women fight on the court on and also what it means to the tournament off the court?
Raffaella Masciadri: For sure it'll have a big impact both on and off the court because Candace is the best player right now. I had the good fortune to play with her with the Sparks and I can say that she can play in every position without problems because she has lot of talent!!! She can do lot of movements that sometimes also a male playeer is unable to do. She is great.
FIBA Europe: Is it realistic to expect a team that is not from Russia to win EuroLeague Women in 2010? Which other teams do you think could make it to Final Four this year - any surprises?
Raffaella Masciadri: Honestly I don't think that a non-Russian team can win Euroleague Women this year. But, compared to last years, I think other European teams are now closer to them. More players, like Valdemoro have left Russia to come back to Spain to try to win with her Spanish team. I'll see Spartak, Ekaterinburg, Valencia for sure at the Final Four. Surprises may be Wisla Can-Pack, USK Prague, Rivas Ecopolis, Galatasaray and why not Schio? I think the Spanish teams are not hey so far from the Russian teams because they have many National Team players and some others that can really make the difference such as Torrens, Valdemoro Milton-Jones and Langhorne for example.
FIBA Europe: When Cras Basket Taranto beat Ros Casares earlier in the Qualifying Round it was described as ‘David beating Goliath'. Do you think this is a good assessment? Are Italian teams like Taranto and Schio really very far back from teams like Ros Casares?
Raffaella Masciadri: If you look at the names of the players then it is right because Valencia, "on paper" seems to be unbeatable. But in reality, you need to play a game to say which team is stronger. I think Taranto have some important players too, like Brunson, Wambe, Godin, Mahoney and other Italian players who are improving year by year. Schio is in the same situation too because we can play with six players of the national team and foreign players who have lot of experience like Antibe and Sauret, who has lot of power like Ngoyisa and lot of desire to emerge like Coleman and Nieuwveen.
FIBA Europe: It is three or four years since Schio won the Italian league title or championship. You are chasing Taranto hard but they are making it tough. How is this Schio team compared to others during your six season at the club?
|Raffaela puts a lot of trust in her teammates such as Mudju Ngoyisa|
Raffaella Masciadri: Last year it was very tough to reach Taranto because we had so many problems right from the beginning of the year - things like players not coming, a lot of changing inside the team and some injuries. So, we made a big effort during the end of the regular season to reach the second position, but later, during the playoffs, we were exhausted and without energy to play and win. Last summer the club worked very hard to create a big team with 10-12 players (which has never happened previously during my career here in Schio) and now we have a team with a mixture of talent, freshness, power and experience. I think the best player we can have back is Ngoyisa. She has already played in Schio since two years ago but she got injured and she lost pretty much all of a season. So now that she is fine, we can trust in her, especially in her power and smartness on the court. I think she is the best post player not only in Italy but also in Europe or at least she is one of the best!
FIBA Europe: It was very bitter-sweet for the National Team at last years EuroBasket in Latvia! You played pretty well but instead of going to the World Championships you will have to qualify for Eurobasket 2011. We guess you had forgotten about that until the rankings were released a few days ago? How do you feel about what happened in Latvia and also 2010?
Raffaella Masciadri: I still feel disappointed about what happened in the last game against Greece.
|Raffaella Masciadri and her Italy side surprised opponents and spectators at the EuroBasket Women|
We were so close to the fifth place but we just couldn't reach it! On the other side, the last Eurobasket Women was a great one for Italy. There were many years that Italy didn't qualified for the competition and we were determined to play a good one. I think we did a great job getting the sixth place and every player on the court gave her best every night! I want to pay my compliments also to our coach Giampiero Ticchi because he was able to instil in us a winning mentality that maybe we had lost in previous years.
FIBA Europe: Let's talk a little about you and your career. You are 30 this year (sorry for reminding you). How do you feel right now about how things are going (did you miss the WNBA?) and what does the future hold for Raffaella Masciadri?
Raffaella Masciadri: Yes I'm 30 this year and I'm getting old! but not so old to stop playing! I'm feeling good and I'm very proud about my career up until this point. I have played and finished up as runner-up with teams in Italy (Pool Comense and Schio) but I have had the opportunity to win a lot and to play with great players from Pollini, Ballabio, Gordon, Mujanovic to Caselin, Arnetoli, Taylor, Donaphin, Macchi and Moro. For sure I'm not tired to keep winning. I would miss Euroleague Women and other big competitions like the Olympics so I'll continue working hard to reach them. I want also to go back to the WNBA. I missed last summer but I had to because I wanted to play in a good condition at Eurobasket Women. I think next summer I'll be back: it's a great opportunity playing there because you can improve in every game and I can continue comparing myself with the best players in the world! You can meet different people and see many nice places too. It's hard sometimes because you are far from home and your season seems like it is lasting forever but it's my job and I like doing it.