By Paul Nilsen
|2011 was the most productive EuroLeague Women season on the offensive end for Elodie Godin, who averaged 11.1 points on 53 percent shooting from the floor|
Last season promised so much for Cras Basket Taranto until they met an immovable force during the quarter-finals.
Getting past UMMC Ekaterinburg to reach the Final Four was always going to be a tough assignment and so it proved, as the Italian club were swept aside to bring an otherwise impressive campaign to an end.
During the last couple of seasons, a hardworking, tough and really determined Cras Basket Taranto has put a really good team out on the floor with a great attitude.
Without any true superstars, they just have good players with decent chemistry who have developed an imposing and hard-nosed style which makes them difficult for opponents to break down.
This season it isn't likely to be any different in terms of their approach with many of the same personnel returning.
They are still a team with lots of experience and their respective age profile shows there are few players in a Taranto vest who are still wet behind the ears.
Undoubtedly the loss of Kathy Wambe will be a blow and there will be a big onus on the young and talented Giorgia Sottana who has joined from Umana Reyer during the summer to produce.
In fact it looks like an all-Italian playmaking situation with Michelle Greco, Valentina Siccardi and Angela Gianolla also vying to be part of the main guard duo.
Creativity and scoring will come from the enigmatic Simona Ballardini. She has such great skills so expect her to be the ‘X Factor' on the wing and if she has a good shooting season from the perimeter then Taranto will be looking good.
However it will once again be the frontcourt where the strength of the team will lie. There is great depth at forward and center.
Returning from last season will be Elodie Godin, Megan Mahoney, Dubravka Dacic and Sara Giauro, a really useful quartet boosted even further by the arrival of Maria Pascalau at center.
|Italy international Simona Ballardini has joined Taranto to boost the backcourt and returns to the EuroLeague Women after a two-year absence|
Group C will hold few fears for Cras Basket Taranto and if Ballardini plays at her optimum level and adds some flair, then the Italian club should be in the mix and vying for the knockout stage yet again.
EUROLEAGUE WOMEN 2011: They proudly finished top of Group A with an 8-2 record to advance to the play-offs where they beat USK Prague in the Eighth-Finals before losing to UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Quarter-Finals.
THE GAP TO FILL: There are few smarter players around than Kathy Wambe. The Belgian guard was the leader in assists and steals last season and the impact of her absence shouldn't be under-estimated.
STAR CHOICE: Elodie Godin was excellent last year and she looks set to be one of the main stars yet again. A former French Young Player Of The Year and EuroLeague Women All-Star, she brings lots of quality in several facets of the game. As usual, she will finish efficiently around the hoop, rebound aggressively and play good defence.
RISING STAR: Marta Masoni is an 18-year-old forward and regular with the Italian National Team at youth level who could develop into a useful option for Taranto in the future. She is a good rebounding presence and relatively mobile so it will be interesting to see if she can contribute if given a little bit of court time this season. Although it will be tough in a team with a long front-court which may result in her having to play more in the 3-4 spot.
DID YOU KNOW? The club made it to the EuroCup Women Final in 2009 but were beaten by Galatasaray.
THE NILSEN NOTE: Cras Basket Taranto were just mind-boggling from three-point range last season - in a rather bad way. Their shooters were stone cold all season long and consequently they were the worst three-point shooting team in the competition making an average of just 1.7 per game. They really can't afford those kind of percentages from downtown again this season!