Chatman Glad To Have Taj In The Squad

24.01.2011

EuroLeague Women

11. Taj McWilliams (Galatasaray )
Veteran Taj McWilliams's contribution to her team is not necessarily reflected in the stats sheet

Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje served up a reminder over the weekend that they remain one of the main contenders for honors in Russia and Europe this season.

The four-time defending EuroLeague Women champions hit back immediately from last week's 11-point setback at Halcon Avenida by claiming an 81-80 overtime win at Nadezhda Orenburg in a Russian top-flight game.

Tina Charles had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Nadezhda but Sparta&K newcomer and veteran center, Taj McWilliams, played extremely well on her debut.

No one is happier than coach Pokey Chatman to have McWilliams with the Moscow Region club.

"Taj is a true professional, a winner, a player with a high b-ball I.Q. that embraces the role of veteran leader," Chatman said to Basketball World News.

"Her impact on the team was felt immediately in the practices.

"Higher level of intensity, communication, etc."

McWilliams, 40, who didn't play at Avenida after having only just signed with the team, saw more than 27 minutes of action against Nadezhda.

She had four points and five rebounds but for anyone that knows anything about the sport, a boxscore never tells the entire story of a player's contribution.

"And as for the game," Chatman said, "the stats don't tell the true picture.

"Her experience helps the team in ways that a coach can truly appreciate.

"For example, she's the player that sets the pin down for Sue Bird's jumper, or is the defensive help-side defender in position to make the ‘read' after the pick-and-roll, or the veteran on the bench cheering, encouraging the other players.

"This is not to say she won't get that much-needed basket, assist or rebound.

11. Yelena Leuchanka (Galatasaray), 7. Sandrine Gruda (UMMC Ekaterinburg)
Belarus international Yelena Leuchanka was a star signing for Wisla during the winter break

"She's a winner and we're glad she was available to join us."

Sparta&K will take on Beretta-Famila Schio and Janel McCarville - a member of their fourth championship-winning side last year - in the Eighth-Finals.

A Tie To Savor

If Sparta&K and Schio looks a tasty showdown, so is the best-of-three Eighth-Final tie that's coming up between Wisla Can-Pack Krakow and Nadezhda.

Wisla came in second to Cras Basket Taranto in Group A while Nadezhda were fourth in Group D.

What do the Poles think about this match-up?

The Wisla website tells you all you need to know.

It has described Nadezda as a real "dream team" and it's easy to back that up.

The Orenburg side has the newcomer of the year in Charles, a gold-medal winner of the United States at last year's FIBA World Championship for Women.

Nadezhda also have Shameka Christon, Becky Hammon, Liudmila Sapova and Anastasiya Verameyenka.

Verameyenka has been ill of late and didn't play for Nadezhda in last week's EuroLeague Women romp against Gorzow, but she was back on the court and playing more than half of the game against Sparta&K.

When considering that Nadezhda won five of their last seven EuroLeague Women games, Wisla (7-3) know they're going to have their hands full.

Nadezhda, on the other hand, only need to look at Wisla's roster to be reminded of how tough it's going to be for them, too.

Verameyenka's Belarus international teammate Yelena Leuchanka joined the Polish team late in the Qualifying Round from Gorzow, and veteran Nicole Powell also brought her offensive prowess during the winter break.

Gunta Basko missed so many games in the Qualifying Round due to injury that Wisla fans must feel as if they have a new player.

If Leuchanka, who had nine points and nine rebounds against LKS Lodz, doesn't have the full attention of Charles, it could be because the American has one eye on Ewelina Kobryn.

The Poland center has moved from strength to strength with Wisla this season, and her latest display in the 73-47 Polish league victory at Lodz over the weekend was further evidence that she's one of the best pivots in Europe.

In 21 minutes, Kobryn had 14 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Gorzow Part With Leedham

Great Britain international Joannna Leedham has left Gorzow, who did not qualify for the EuroLeague Women play-offs.

Leedham and the club parted ways by mutual agreement according to the Polish league website, www.plkk.pl, with the departure due to the "player's health problems".

The 23-year-old averaged 9.7 points in nine EuroLeague Women games.

She didn't appear in last week's heavy defeat to Nadezhda.


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