Congreaves Believes Rebels Can Deliver
As she prepares for the EuroCup qualifying round, player-coach Andrea Congreaves insists her Rebels side can bounce back this season both domestically and internationally.
Rhonnda Rebels finished last year empty-handed after Sheffield took the treble in Great Britain.
And the Welsh side travel to Portugal to play Boa Viagem on Thursday with the unenviable record of only having won three out of 30 EuroCup games.
But international star Congreaves has high hopes for her last season as a player.
"We've got a very good team this year," she said, "very athletic and very quick. But very different to each other. We've got some great shooters and good inside players, too. So we can mix it up a bit and give Boa Viagem a difficult time.
"We don't know much about them, but we know that we've got a great team. So we've just got to go there and concentrate on how we play. It's always difficult away from home, but I'm confident we can get a result there and then finish them off back here."
The Rebels play the home leg on October 24 and overall victory would see them compete in a four-team group alongside Taranto (Italy), Challes-les-Eaux (France) and Hondarriba Irun (Spain).
This is the first time in EuroCup history there has been additional qualifying before the preliminary groups and Congreaves says it can only be beneficial to her team.
"It definitely gives us an advantage over previous seasons. Starting a bit earlier means that hopefully we'll be ready to go straight away once the competition gets underway.
"Before we've had little preparation and have gone into big European games having only played a couple of domestic games. We'll be more prepared now.
"But we're not thinking of the group stages too much. I know the teams a bit from when I played in Europe in the past, but I'm taking it one game at a time and we'll go from there. We've got to qualify first.
"We don't have a great record in the EuroCup but we're prepared mentally and physically now. We know what this is about."
And in Congreaves the Rebels have the ideal woman to lead them into battle.
The 37-year-old has won almost everything in the game in a medal-filled career which included national titles at Como (Italy), Barcelona (Spain) and Bourges (France). Her stay at Bourges also brought her to the pinnacle of the club game - a European Cup final appearance.
She joined Rebels in 2005, the year they won the treble and she's anxious to get back to winning ways after Sheffield pipped them to all three titles last season.
"Our main focus is definitely domestically," added Congreaves. "It was very close against Sheffield - it went all the way down to the wire.
"But we're here to take our treble back this year. We've got a very good team, a new look team, and we're looking forward to this season. We're very confident.
"It's hard for British teams to compete internationally because it's expensive. But hats off to (general manager) Andrew Tynan for securing a lot of sponsors. He does a tremendous job so we can afford to play year after year in Europe. And Wales has a lot of supporters which helps.
"But the level simply isn't the same in the UK as it is in Europe. Club basketball is rising but it's not at the same standard yet. All the clubs have to sit down and discuss ways of improving. If we don't, then we're always going to lag behind."
And Congreaves believes British clubs can match the rise of the national team, for which she has high hopes.
Britain's basketball star has played her last international season, but went out with a bang - helping the GB team into Division A with a 100% record.
"It's great," she said. "We're going to be facing the best in Europe now. The real test is going to be maintaining that level. Every game is going to be extremely difficult. It's going to be a case of facing 12 strong players in a game rather than four or five.
"It's a test, but I hope we can continue. And now that we're in Division A I think we have a great chance of getting to the 2012 Olympics."
FIBA have said they want to be convinced that both the men's and women's team in Britain will be competitive enough to take up their places at the London Games.
"They're just around the corner and it's fantastic motivation to think of playing in front of your home crowd at the Olympic Games," he said. "It's the dream.
"What I'll be doing then, I don't know. I enjoy coaching, but whether I'll be doing it at a club or international capacity by then remains to be seen."