|Ekaterinburg will miss Bibrzycka's long range shooting. The Poland international was 26-for-57 from behind the arc|
By Jeff Taylor
UMMC Ekaterinburg go into every season thinking of one thing and one thing only.
They want to win every title.
For the past two years, the club has finished top in the Russian Cup and the Russian league.
The outfit has not captured a EuroLeague Women crown since 2003 though, despite making three straight appearances at the Final Four.
Beaten twice by Fenerbahce in the Regular Season, it's fair to say that UMMC has had a major change to its roster this week.
UMMC general manager Maxim Ryabkov has confirmed to Basketball World News that EuroLeague Women All-Star Agnieszka Bibrzycka (Biba) has left the team and been replaced by Slovakia international former Good Angels Kosice playmaker, Zuzana Zirkova.
Biba averaged 12 points in 26.7 minutes per game in Europe and shot a dazzling 45% (26 of 57) from three-point range.
Zirkova averaged 13.8 points in 32.6 minutes per contest while shooting 31.9% (15 of 47) from the arc.
Both are terrific players.
The onus will be on Gundars Vetra, the UMMC coach, and Zirkova to make her three-month contract pay off for Ekat.
"Biba left the team due to an important personal reason," Ryabkov said.
"We respect her privacy and leave it to her to explain the public in case she plans it.
|Slovakia international Zuzana Zirková can be considered a like-for-like replacement for Biba |
"It was sudden to us and we had a really short time to find the replacement and be in time before today's (Wednesday's) EuroLeague Women registration deadline.
"And now we are happy to present to the public as a UMMC player, Zuzana Zirkova. I hope tomorrow (Thursday) she will make her debut for UMMC in the Russian Cup semi-final against Dinamo-GUVD Novosibirsk."
The comings and goings mean that UMMC, who lost just twice in the EuroLeague Women Qualifying Round - each time to Fenerbahce - are looking to find some chemistry before they take on Rivas Ecopolis in the Eighth-Finals.
"Now, after the departure of Ann Wauters, Agniezska Bibrzycka and Crystal Langhorne and the arrival of Candace Parker and Zuzana Zirkova, we in fact face the challenge to create a new team game and we'll do our best to answer this challenge," Ryabkov said.
"The first step will be at the Russian Cup."
Rivas are a different team, now.
After a slow start, they finished the Qualifying Round strong, buoyed by a Copa de la Reina win in Valencia that is the greatest moment in club history.
In capturing that title, Rivas beat not just one EuroLeague Women team but two.
They came from behind to upset Halcon Avenida and then in the Final stunned hosts Ros Casares.
"Rivas Ecopolis is a highly respected opponent for us," Ryabkov said.
"We had hard games with them in the group, especially in Ekaterinburg in December.
"And I was not surprised at all when they won Royal Cup (Spanish Cup) later.
"This is a team of a lovely mix of experience and youth and we're going to have difficult contest."
There has been such a flurry of transfer activity in the EuroLeague Women that really, no one can say with any conviction just exactly how the post-season will play out.
"The current Euroleague is unbelievable in results and transactions and everyone can win or lose to any team," Ryabkov said.
"No team will have an easy way to the Final Four and UMMC is not the exception."