By Paul Nilsen
|20-year-old power forward Alena Hanusová is already something of a EuroLeague Women veteran, as she will play for the third consecutive year in the competition |
For Frisco Brno fans who feasted on an almost perennial place at the Final Four table, the current times must feel leaner than ever before.
The former EuroLeague Women champions have had to respond to challenging economic times and in the last few seasons they have had to cut their cloth accordingly when it came to assembling their roster.
Rather inevitably, there has been a sharp decline in results not only in EuroLeague Women but also domestically. Indeed the club has already lost two of their five games in the Czech League this season albeit arch rivals USK Prague needed overtime to finish the job.
Whether the slowdown in success is terminal or just a blip in the club's illustrious history remains to be seen, but they will certainly be hoping they don't repeat some of their huge EuroLeague Women losses after crashing by a forty-point margin on more than one occassion.
Curiously, when they beat Nadezhda early last season, it looked like it could actually be a bright campaign but it proved to be a false dawn. Now that Cheryl Ford, Jelena Skerovic, Frida Eldebrink and Louice Halvarsson have all left the club, the well-respected Jan Bobrovský will have to use every last drop of his experience to get yet another new-look team firing on all cylinders and capable of picking up some win.
In recent days, the club has announced they have bolstered their frontcourt with the acquisition of experience in Ashley Robinson who has spent the last few month at Seattle Storm.
Robinson lines up in the paint with a trio of Czech Republic National Team players including Ivana Vecerova, Tereza Peckova and the great young talent of Alena Hanusova. With Romana Stehlikova also returning and the addition of rising star Farhiya Abdi, the frontcourt looks slightly deeper than last season.
Duke graduate Jasmine Thomas will embark on her first season overseas in the backcourt and she will probably share the work with the ball, alongside Swedish National Team playmaker Martina Staalvant.
|At 32, center Ivana Vecerová is by far the most experienced player on the Frisco Brno roster |
However Thomas is a true combo guard so she could also move to the two spot which is supported by Martina Palenikova while Romana Hejdova and Monika Sivrova will patrol the wings.
Frisco Brno is relatively young and inexperienced compared to most other teams. They also lack the depth of many rivals although arguably has a slightly longer roster than last season or at least in the paint.
The outlook does not necessarily need to be bleak. The same was being said of teams such as VICI Aistes last season but they still shone brightly so writing off Brno could be a mistake and it's now up to the players to ensure it is.
EUROLEAGUE WOMEN 2011: Brno finished sixth in Group D with a 2-8 record and did not advance to the play-offs.
THE GAP TO FILL: Cheryl Ford showed she is over her injury troubles with some monumental performances last season averaging 14.8 points and 14.6 rebounds which made her the leading rebounder in the competition. She will be a tough act to follow.
STAR CHOICE: Jasmine Thomas will embark on her rookie European season and after showing some signs of her potential during her first WNBA campaign during recent months, she could possibly be the player to propel Brno to some victories if she settles quickly. The added bonus is that she is just as comfortable shooting the ball or handling it, so she brings different options in a backcourt without a real natural scorer at the elite level.
RISING STAR: Swedish teenager Farhiya Abdi is a fantastic prospect and having switched the Fryshuset in the Swedish League for Brno, she has already made an impression with some hugely promising performances including a monstrous double-double of 29 points and 17 rebounds against USK Prague. She is a strong and versatile power forward and could be in the running to potentially be one of the top rising stars of the new season.
DID YOU KNOW? Frisco Brno made it to the last four of the competition a stunning seven times in an eight-year period between 2000 and 2008.
THE NILSEN NOTE: On paper at least, there doesn't look to be huge scoring options in the backcourt and I will be interested to see if the guards can prove me wrong and produce numbers to give the team more balance and not over rely on the frontline to try and win games.