By Paul Nilsen
Players don't always get second chances but Great Britain star Kim Butler is preparing to grab the one she has been given by TTT Riga with both hands and prove to everyone including herself that the elite level is exactly where she belongs.
Having played briefly in Kosice several seasons ago, Butler can't wait to get back playing in EuroLeague Women and is counting down the days to the big tip-off.
"I'm excited to be back playing amongst the best players and teams in Europe. It's taken me a while but I feel my experience playing in many different countries and leagues in the past few years has been the best thing for me. I'm happy to call TTT Riga my new home and I am confident this will be a great season for us.
|Kim Butler considers her brief spell at Kosice a valuable experience|
"Kosice was a learning experience for me in many ways. Coming off my rookie season playing in Greece and Israel, I was given a great opportunity to play in the top competition in Europe and I felt it was a great accomplishment so soon in my career.
"Although my numbers didn't show it, I think the months playing for Kosice definitely impacted my game. Not only was I practicing with some of the strongest players around like Janel McCarville and Slovak National Team players every day, we probably faced the hardest bracket in EuroLeague Women at that time.
"So, it was a successful season for me when I look back and see how much I've grown from that experience."
Butler has a track record of successful forays into Europe at EuroCup Women level although she is refreshingly candid when talking about what she now needs to do when she steps back onto the ELW scene.
"I think I do have something to prove to myself this year and that is this is where I belong. I think it's important to keep improving as a player, to keep adding different dimensions to your game and to keep setting higher goals for yourself. All you can do is your best out there, but you can always keep improving on your best.
"I have high aspirations to produce at both ends of the court and help TTT Riga win some games. Yes, EuroCup Women is different and I'm aware I will need to step it up a notch or two but I am definitely ready for the challenge.
"Our main focus is our EuroLeague Women games each week, it has to be. Most of our time will be preparing for these games, stressing these opponents, but that doesn't mean we can ignore the fact we play a domestic game as well.
"I think this is a good situation to be in and it gives us substantial preparation and recovery time throughout the week. It also gives all of the players a chance to play in games, which will benefit us in practices.
"I know we definitely have a chance to succeed in this group, but that's true for each team, isn't it? I also know I will be returning to Kosice so that's an extra incentive, and also facing Taranto which ended my Spanish team's EuroCup Women run two years ago.
"The other two teams will be a challenge as they have great reputations in Hungary and France. I believe if we play to win each game, not just compete, Riga can do great things. It will come down to which team is the most consistent."
EuroBasket Women A Huge Achievement For Great Britain
Even if the leaves have slowly started falling from the trees as autumn takes a grip, it doesn't seem like two minutes since Butler was revelling in the summer sunshine and making history for the Great Britain National Team by leading Great Britain to a first ever place at EuroBasket Women. It was a basketball journey she will always cherish and never forget.
"Starting off in the beginning of June, we had an extra month to prepare and establish our character as a team. We travelled most of July playing practice games against dominant Div A teams and this was the best thing for us. We had to work some kinks out along the way but it was evident we peeked at just the right time going into August.
"We lost our first game but it was never a question of being outmatched, more a matter of us not realising our potential and just how good we could be. I think it just shows how far GB basketball has come when we regrouped, bounced back and finished first in the bracket.
|Great Britain teammate Johannah Leedham will also be playing in ELW this season with Gorzow|
"We are a young team, other countries have a lot more experience than we do at this level but we don't mind being the underdog. We have set our sights on 2012 and are persistent in changing the culture of British basketball along the way.
"Focusing on my season with TTT Riga is the priority at the moment, but qualifying for EuroBasket Women is huge. This achievement marks a milestone for Great Britain. I know that we shocked many people with, not only qualifying but being at the top of our group.
"We are very proud of this accomplishment and how much of our time and effort and persistence has paid off. GB is definitely not done proving itself to the rest of the basketball world and all of us are extremely thrilled to have gained a little bit of respect."
Butler signing for a club in EuroLeague Women further highlights the progress being made by Great Britain basketball and the player understands the relevance of this while National Team colleague Johannah Leedham made it double delight for British fans after she put pen to paper with KSSSE AZS-PWSZ Gorzow.
"I absolutely see the importance of playing at the top level. You get to experience the pace and physicality of it, and also the skill and strength of every team. It would be extremely beneficial for the GB team to have more of my team-mates playing in Europe during the regular season.
"Experiencing stronger competitions and better opponents will only make us better individually. It will also make the team more ready to face the EuroBasket and 2012.
"Johannah is extremely talented. Many see her as an unconventional player but that's how she sets her mark, she brings something different to the game. She's unpredictable, and that makes her hard to guard. Jo is someone you want to be playing with and not against."