U20 WOMEN DIVISION B
|Do it like Taurasi - Romania guard Sonia Ursu finds inspiration in the game of the American guard |
By Paul Nilsen
When Sonia Ursu steps out in Klatovy at the U20 European Championship Women Division B, she will have two powerful motivational tools to ensure she continues providing inspiration for Romania.
Namely, the joy of promotion and a certain Diana Taurasi.
For the last time the dynamic and do-it-all swingman played in Division B, in 2010, she left with what is undoubtedly the greatest memory so far of an impressive youth career.
"Most definitely my best moment at any youth European Championship was in Timisoara, when we won the Division B title," explained Ursu.
"It was very special for me and I think also for my team.
"We worked hard and we were a very good team both on the court but also outside of it."
She added: "I will remember that tournament and I will cherish those moments all my life."
Very much the go-to player for Romania, Ursu draws strength from her determination to learn from the very best - and they don't get much better than a EuroLeague Women and global superstar like Taurasi.
"Ever since I started playing basketball I have considered Diana Taurasi as a very, very good player and I really love her game," smiled Ursu.
"She is amazing on the court and just watching her inspires me a lot and gives me a lot of confidence.
"She makes me want to be better player."
With Romanian club Municipal Targoviste having just taken up a slot in the EuroLeague Women for the forthcoming season, it could be that future generations of young Romanian girls continue to be inspired by the best women ballers out there.
Certainly Ursu couldn't be happier with this recent development.
"I'm glad that Romanian basketball is making progress and I am happy for Targoviste, she said.
"I wish them good luck!"
PROMOTION HAPPINESS, RELEGATION BLUES
|Ursu wants to experience again moments like the summer of 2010, when Romania won the U18 European Championship Women title and earned promotion to the top flight |
Winning promotion on home soil two years ago was, of course, something dreams are made of and especially after four successive Division B campaigns at both U16 and U18 level.
But, those dreams seemed but a distant memory last summer, when the step up in class meant a very difficult few months for Ursu as reality of life in Division A began to bite.
While the U18 European Championship Women was staged in Romania, it proved something of a struggle for the team to recapture their form from Timisoara when they took to the floor in Oradea.
"It was difficult because it wasn't the same team anymore like in the previous year," admitted Ursu.
"Some of us were at the U20 European Championship Women so we couldn't practice together that much but I think that all of us did our best."
If finishing 12th was a little disappointing after the highs of promotion the year before, Ursu came truly came back down to earth with a real bump at U20 level last year when Romania were unceremoniously relegated in Novi Sad.
"It was a disaster and probably my worst ever Championship," declared Ursu, undeniably still hurting from the experience.
"I don't know exactly what happened but I think we weren't so focused on the court.
"We were dominated by height and also our defence was weak."
Her candid assessment of last year's failure should also prove a potential motivational factor to help make amends this time around while she can also reflect on being selected for the senior national team's EuroBasket Women qualifiers earlier in the summer.
Although Romania struggled to get the wins they craved and didn't book a spot in France, it was a ground-breaking time for Ursu who is still bursting with pride at representing her country at the highest level.
"I was blessed to have this amazing opportunity to be with the senior national team and to train with players with bigger experience than myself," she said.
"I learned a lot and I am grateful for my team-mates and also to my coaches.
"It was an honour for me to play against so many powerful teams and I hope I will do my best from now on."