Russia Look To Hit Their Stride In Chekov

19 August 2005

Defending champions Russia finalise their preparations for the EuroBasket Women with a double-header against fellow qualifiers Czech Republic next week.

The clashes on Wednesday and Thursday in Chekhov will be the last chance for Igor Grudin to run the rule over his side ahead of the tournament in Turkey at the start of next month.

"It will be a good test for us before the Euros," Grudin said to the Basketball Federation of Russia's official website.

"The Czech Republic are serious rivals and of course they are one of the favourites of the forthcoming European Championships."

Russia have been drawn in Group B along with the hosts, as well as Serbia & Montenegro, Lithuania, Spain and Romania.

The good news for Russia is that Maria Stepanova is now with them after a successful spell with the Phoenix Mercury.

The WNBA club did not want to lose their star center this late in the season, but Russia would have been severely weakened without her.

In Monday's issue of the Vechernaya Moskva newspaper, when Stepanova's status appeared to be up in the air, Grudin allayed concerns about her availability.

"We need Stepanova very much," he said.

"We have an agreement with her that even in the case her WNBA club will qualify for the play-offs, she will join the national team on August 15 or 16."

Russia have a different agreement with Svetlana Abrosimova, however, a star with the Minnesota Lynx.

"I'd like to see Abrosimova in our squad who is playing well in the WNBA, but she will come only if her club does not make the play-offs," Grudin added.

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