Czech Republic: Sisterly Nemcova Happy To Help

01 September 2005
From Robert Rozanek, PA Sport, Prague

Eva Nemcova knows she will be playing the 'older sister' role for the Czech Republic at the EuroBasket Women but it is a role she is more than happy to fill.

Nemcova had not been called up to the national team squad since 1999 and her career looked to be over following Achilles and knee injuries.

However, the 32-year-old returned to fitness - and form - with her club, Italian outfit Parma Basket, and her spell in the international wilderness came to an end in May when she was named by coach Jan Bobrovsky in the Czech training squad.

I found the determination to come back despite all the operations. I do not regret it - I still love basketball very much
Eva Nemcová

Now having put in a series of commanding performances in their preparation for the tournament, which begins on Friday, Nemcova is set to be one of the team's most important players in Turkey - an opportunity she thought she'd never get again.

"All the doctors thought that I'd have to finish my playing career," she told PA Sport.

"The gristles (in my knee) were extensive and they wanted to give me an artificial knee.

"I stopped for three months only. My knee deflated and I didn't feel any pain. I started to work on my knee muscles, I played at first division level and then I came to the national team. I'm very happy."

The thought of having to hang up her jersey was difficult for Nemcova to take. So much so she defied medical wisdom by battling back to fitness.

"It is very hard to suddenly stop playing basketball," she said. "I cried every single day during the first 14 days. You have to leave something that you love all at once.

"I found the determination to come back despite all the operations. I do not regret it - I still love basketball very much."

Nemcova is a veteran of the team that came fifth in the 1999 event in Poland, and with age and fitness against her, she accepts the chance to lead her country may not come around again.

"This championship is a big challenge for me because it could be my last one. My knee is okay right now but everything can change very quickly," she added.

"I have an opportunity to win something with the Czech team now. I have never achieved something like that with our national team before so I very much want to make a success of it.

"A great thing can be a medal and participation in the World Championship next year."

The Czechs certainly have a medal in their sights after reaching the 2003 final in Greece before losing to Russia, and they should be confident of at least being one of the top five teams, which would secure qualification for next year's FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil.

"The first game against France will definitely not be easy and every opponent can be a surprise. Germany play hard, and  Greece are hard and quick as well," said Nemcova, whose team will also take on Latvia and Poland in the preliminary round.

"Russia and Spain from the other group are strong and they are getting better and better every year.

"We have a good team - young, but experienced. We have to concentrate during all the games and we should not underestimate our opponents."

Nemcova is right about the Czechs being a young team - their average age is 24 - which did concern the veteran when she was recalled by Bobrovsky.

"I am happy that I've been brought back into the team despite the fact that I'm over 10 years older than some of them. I was scared because of that," admitted Nemcova, who will room with the squad's youngest member, 20-year-old Petra Kulichova.

"I am like her older sister," she joked. "I feel young like them and they talk with me in comfort.

"I like to help young people - in basketball and in another situations.

Everybody can come to talk with me - it is probably my role in this team."

And that could be a factor in what Nemcova sees as the 'musketeer' spirit in the Czech squad.

"We respect one another. Nobody plays for the star status," she added.

"I think the team keeps together. There aren't any conflicts among us and everybody can talk to everybody. We are friends on and off the court and that is good. We are something like musketeers - one for all, all for one."

Nemcova's on-court role is different nowadays, however, as she will now be playing center rather than forward.

"I play center and I can say that it is better for me," she said. "I am quicker, I have better shooting from middle distance and I can help my team-mates by pulling my player outside."

She certainly demonstrated those attributes in the final preparation games over the last month. We'll see if she can do it again when it matters most.

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