EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
|Louice Halvarsson has been instrumental in helping Sweden qualify for this summer's EuroBasket Women championship|
By Paul Nilsen
When Louice Halvarsson and her Swedish team-mates celebrated qualification for EuroBasket Women last summer, it completed a healing process which wasn't just about ending 25 years of hurt.
Whilst the headlines rightly highlighted Sweden regaining their seat at the top table of women's basketball for the first time since 1987, this landmark moment also delivered more personal redemption.
Six years ago, a gifted and golden generation of players including Halvarsson and the Eldebrink sisters (Frida and Elin) suffered the crushing disappointment of a shock and unthinkable relegation to Division B.
However, out of the darkness came an overpowering desire for atonement and so unsurprisingly, there was a sigh of elation and sheer relief when they made amends by punching their ticket for France.
"Yes, the feelings from last summer were really good, and now we're looking forward to this summer," smiled Halvarsson who averaged an 14.1 points and 6.6 rebounds.
"We did a great job during the qualification and the main reason for success was a good team with great team spirit and everybody working hard for each other.
"We definitely grew older and got more experienced - we've all played tougher games against good players and that disappointment from last time really gave us some good motivation.
"It was like we felt it was a case of now or never!"
Even concerns over a worrying wrist injury to Frida Eldebrink aren't dampening the anticipation ahead of the tournament. Indeed Halvarsson is confident the guard, who poured in 20.9 points-per-game last summer, will recover in time.
She said, "We really hope she is going to be back with full ‘Frida Power' since they say it shouldn't be a problem for her.
"She's very important for us and is a good all round player. She can basically score in every way."
Sweden will need Eldebrink in the obligatory ‘Group Of Death' against a rejuvenated Italy, reigning champions Russia and a Spanish team intent on dishing up revenge having lost twice to the Swedes during qualification.
"The group is going to be extremely hard since all the teams are good. But we know that if we play disciplined and aggressive, we can win against everyone" claimed Halvarsson.
"We will try to play our game and we will see how things turn out. We need to play at our highest possible level.
"We don't want to leave France and regret that we did not do everything we could have."
|Louice Halvarsson has experienced a tough domestic season inItaly|
Affectionately known as ‘Lollo', the 24-year-old is tasked with promoting Swedish women's basketball and inspiring young people in her homeland. She is already revered by emerging Swedish frontcourt talents such as Amanda Zahui and Paulina Hersler - both eager to play alongside her.
"It feels good that we have some good young post players coming up and especially Amanda who is a real post player - she's got a great future in front of her," she insisted.
"Paulina is a great young player too, who can play post as well as forward. She is also going to be a great addition to the team in the future.
"I was happy that I got the opportunity to play for the senior national team at a young age. It helped me get experience which was important when I then stepped into pro-basketball."
She continued, "I hope going to France will make more young Swedes explore the greatness of basketball.
"Inspiring young people is not something I think about every day, but I just hope what I do on and off the court will inspire some people - I just try to be a good basketball player and person."
At club level, it's been a challenging and disappointing campaign in Italy with Cagliari, where she plays alongside Elin Eldebrink. The team has struggled at the bottom of the standings although she is trying to look on the bright side of things.
"Yes, so far it's been tough" she conceded.
"We've been losing many games and several close ones, but the season isn't over yet and many things can still happen.
"The first half has made me stronger. I love to win and really hate to lose, so will try to bring some positivity out of it.
"It's at least nice to have one of my best friends on the same team as it makes everything so much easier."
Halvarsson and Sweden tip-off their tournament against Italy on 15 June in Vannes.