The Very Good Angels

09.10.2010

By Jeff Taylor

There was an unmistakable look of satisfaction on the face of one man who sat and watched the United States play their games in Ostrava at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women.

That man was Daniel Jendrichovsky.

He sees a lot of basketball as the general manager of Good Angels Kosice.

Two of the American players he was observing at the CEZ Arena at the World Championship had helped his club have their finest season in the rough-and-tough EuroLeague Women last year.

One player was Candice Dupree and the other was Angel McCoughtry.

Dupree, much to Jendrichovsky's delight, had decided to return for another season and he wanted to see her in action before the season.

But McCoughtry, much to his chagrin, has elected to leave for MKB Euroleasing Sopron.

34. Angel Lajuane McCoughtry (Good Angels Kosice)
Angel McCoughtry will be playing for Sopron this year
"We are so happy that Candice stayed in our team and will play in the EuroLeague in our jersey," Jendrichovsky said to Basketball World News.

"We're not happy that another of our players, Angel McCoughtry, won't play for us.

"But we don't have the budget to keep two superstars like this in our team."

For now, Jendrichovsky has to settle for the memories of the best one-two punch in all of Europe in 2009-10.

McCoughtry was second in the EuroLeague Women in scoring at 19 points per game while Dupree was third at 18.9.

Dupree was first in rebounds at 11 per game, McCoughtry tied for 9th at 7.8 per contest.

McCoughtry led the league with an average of 3.3 steals per game while Dupree was number one in blocked shots, swatting an average of 1.4.

"I'm so happy that last year, we built the team around them and played at such a high level," Jendrichovsky said.

"In the history of Kosice, for sure - it was the best year we ever had."

It's easy to forget just how good Kosice were because they didn't reach the Final Four.

But they were borderline excellent on some nights.

UMMC Ekaterinburg, a squad that many believe to be the most talented in Europe, beat them 2-0 in the Quarter-Finals but only scraped a 65-60 triumph in Game Two.

"We had never played in the Quarter-Finals and we won eight games in the EuroLeague," Jendrichovsky said.

"This was very important.

"It benefitted us some because the draw for the EuroLeague gave us a big opportunity to win this season."

The Not-So-Tough League

Some EuroLeague Women clubs play in tough domestic competitions.

Imagine what it's like when the top Russian teams get after each other.

Spartak Moscow Region and UMMC Ekaterinburg have played in some classic battles the past few years.

In Spain, Halcon Avenida, Ros Casares and Rivas Ecopolis make life hell for each other.

The presence of Cras Basket Taranto and Beretta Famila Schio, and other good sides in Italy make that a hard competition.

Good Angels do not have a tough domestic league, though.

"The difference between the EuroLeague and the Slovak League is huge," Jendrichovsky said, "but our goal is the EuroLeague.

"Everyone in Slovakia and in the newspapers are talking about the weak quality in the Slovak league and that it doesn't help us.

"But I have another way of thinking about this.

"We can put all of our attention on the EuroLeague games and we don't need to play 100% every Saturday.

"We can save the best players for the important EuroLeague games."

Jendrichovsky says the Slovakian league isn't as bad as some people may think.

"The difference between us and other Slovak clubs?" Jendrichovsky said.

"If they found the money to play in the other FIBA Europe competition, the EuroCup, I think Poprad and Presov could be very good teams.

"But they have no budget to travel a lot and that's why everyone thinks the Slovak league is weak. In the Slovak league will be six former WNBA players, so it's not so bad."

The National Team

One cannot look at Good Angels Kosice and not think of the Slovakian national side.

Zuzana Zirkova
Zuzana Zirkova has recovered from the injury she picked up while on national duty with Slovakia

That's because there are so many that wear the national team jersey.

Jendrichovsky pays special attention to the national team for that reason and this summer, he cringed as Slovakia barely made it to next year's EuroBasket Women.

"I was very disappointed when we lost three games with the national team because we have seven players from Good Angels in the national team," he said.

"They started very well but after that, we struggled.

"I'm happy we got in the European Championship so we can show we can play much better."

Slovakia had played so well at the EuroBasket Women in Riga last year that it's hard to believe they went into the last qualifying game this time needing to win to earn a trip to Poland.

Victory over Germany on August 29 meant that Slovakia would compete in the Final Round.

"The system of the national team is a little bit different," Jendrichovsky said.

"To play six games in 14 or 16 days is too hard. You have no time to practice, no time to prepare.

"You just travel and prepare. I don't think this is a good way to promote women's basketball.

"You can see in the first games, all the teams were good. But after, all of them struggle.

"The last games in all the groups were bad. Everyone was tired."

Slovakia may not have struggled as much had Zuzana Zirkova been healthy.

As it was, she missed most of last season at Frisco Sika Brno through injury.

Zirkova showed up to play for the national team but hurt her hand in the first game.

"We were angry when she played for the national team and got hurt again but she spent two months with a personal trainer and is now 100% ready," Jendrichovsky said.

Zirkova, 30, will play for Good Angels this season and that is a huge cause for celebration.

"It was always my dream to have all of the Slovak players together with the best American players," Jendrichovsky said.

"Now we have Zuzana back after so many years.

"She's back to where she started her career.

"She'll be an unbelievable addition to the team because all of the girls believe in her quality and power and that it can help us.

"The combination with Candice Dupree is something that all of our fans are looking forward to."


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