By Paul Nilsen
|Point guard Celine Dumerc returns to France and Bourges after a two-year stint at Ekaterinburg|
With Celine Dumerc now pulling the strings, Bourges Basket could have found themselves the difference-maker that will catapult them to EuroLeague Women success.
Certainly the addition of the one of the best playmakers in world basketball to an already talented roster with added depth this season makes the French club strong contenders to make the Final Eight, at the very least.
If they do get there and shift through the gears as the season unfolds, I suspect few teams will relish coming up against them since it's difficult to imagine Bourges not playing a terrific level of defence.
For while it may be the dawn of a new era in the wake of the legendary Pierre Vincent departing, new play-caller Valerie Garnier has players her disposal who are more than capable of continuing this tradition.
However, searching out wins using mainly defence rather than overpowering opponents with offensive firepower brings its own dangers. Not least the fact that low-scoring games can mean an opponent can hang around and shock you, as evidenced by Bourges losing 58-55 to Landes on their home-court over the weekend. Still, with the talent they have, this is likely to be a blip and no more.
Alongside Dumerc, the ammunition and real scoring power will be provided by the returning Cathy Joens who was in good form last season while the club has added veteran guard Keisha Brown who played in EuroCup last season with Mann Filter Zaragoza.
The frontcourt looks to have a particularly nice balance about it and crucially, plenty of continuity.
|Endene Miyem, who averaged 11.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in the EuroLeague Women last season, is entering her sixth year at Bourges and will be one of the leaders of the team|
The impressive quarter of Endene Miyem, Jennifer Digbeu, Styliani Kaltsidou and Emmeline Ndongue all return while an increase in both depth and quality is assured with the acquisition of newcomers Ieva Kublina and Marielle Amant.
I haven't heard too many people talking about Bourges Basket as one of the front-runners but clearly they look to have improved their roster and they possess most of the weapons required to be a genuine EuroLeague Women contender.
EUROLEAGUE WOMEN 2011: They finished second in Group D with a 7-3 record and defeated Good Angels Kosice in the eighth-finals before losing to Ros Casares in the quarter-finals.
THE GAP TO FILL: While a handful of solid players have departed, there are no particularly huge gaps for Bourges to fill.
STAR CHOICE: The return of National Team star Celine Dumerc from UMMC Ekaterinburg is a mega coup for Bourges Basket. She is a terrific playmaker and her defence is world class. Ask any coach in Europe who would they like running their team on the floor and I suspect there won't be many players in front of Dumerc in the queue. She is also likely to up her offensive production after not having had a scoring role with Ekat.
RISING STAR: To their immense credit, Bourges have a host of potential rising stars in the form of Margaux Galliou, Christelle Diallo, Romane Bernies, Rudiane Eduardo, Annaelle Le Bruchec and Lisa Bacconnier. Six names either 1993 or 1994-born and very much worth keeping an eye on during future seasons. As for Baconnier and Bernies, their dreams must have come true being able to learn in practice from a point guard like Dumerc.
DID YOU KNOW? Pierre Vincent coached over 400 games for Bourges during his eight-year stint as head coach and delivered 12 trophies.
THE NILSEN NOTE: Bourges had a very distinctive and strong ethos under Pierre Vincent and it will be interesting to see how their general style of play changes - if at all. In particular if the disciplined rotations and healthy distribution of minutes for which Vincent was well known will be upheld and similarly if their trademark defensive qualities will remain their main forte.