By Paul Nilsen
|Sancho Lyttle received the FIBA Europe 2013 Women's Player of the Year Award from FIBA Europe Secretary General Kamil Novak prior to Galatasaray odeabank's opening game at the EuroLeague Women Final Eight|
The snowy backdrop to the EuroLeague Women Final Eight in Ekaterinburg is a stark contrast to the sunshine of the West Indies which 2013 FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year recipient, Sancho Lyttle grew up with.
Having taken her adopted nation Spain to a sumptuous podium topping experience at EuroBasket Women last year, Lyttle was named MVP of the tournament which culminated in her landing a second individual accolade.
Receiving the FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year award from FIBA Europe Secretary General Kamil Novak ahead of leading Galatasaray odeabank into their first game at the Final Eight, Lyttle expressed her gratitude at scooping the prestigious gong.
She said, "It is an honour to receive the award and because I have known about the award for a few months, I wouldn't say it gives me a confidence boost, but it is proof in the pudding that I have won it.
"I am very grateful for it and EuroBasket Women 2013 was a real eye-opener for me, because it demonstrated the kind of limits I could push myself to.
"This award is an endorsement that if you put your mind to something then you can achieve it."
Still possessing her unmistakable Caribbean accent, even just speaking to the forward instinctively conjured up thoughts of summer sunshine inside the snow clad DIVS Arena.
Had Lyttle not went to study in America, she would probably have still had a cricket ball in her hand - certainly not a basketball.
"I love cricket and it is the sport which me and my family were brought up on. Everyone loves the ‘Windies' and I liked to do a little bit of both batting and bowling," recalled Lyttle.
|Sancho Lyttle's sport growing in the West Indies was cricket|
"However, I used to make sure I was standing way out in the field when fielding, so I could avoid being hit by the hard cricket ball - something which used to fly incredibly fast towards you if you stood too close!"
Of course women's basketball is grateful Lyttle did eventually discover professional hoops and that is also of huge benefit to Galatasaray, who are looking to improve on last year's event, when they lost every game.
"Yes, the inner workings of the team were a little haywire last year in Ekaterinburg," confessed the 30-year-old.
"We came not even knowing what our team was really going to look like and maybe it wasn't a surprise that we got hit really hard in the first game and we couldn't recover.
"But, I think we will learn from last year and appreciate what we have now, since we haven't had any problems at all and should be able to put on a much better show.
"The players who have played with Galatasaray for a long time have also taken real confidence from beating Fenerbahce to the [Turkish] regular season title.
"But even after this, we know that we have to work even harder to now win games here in Ekaterinburg at this level."
She added, "When you come to this stage of great competitions, whether it is EuroLeague Women or the WNBA, you always know that you are going up against the very, very best.
"Every time you put even a toe onto the court, you know you have to really give it, otherwise you had might as well just go home."
Lyttle and fellow Spanish national team star Alba Torrens, who she squeezed out to land the award, will look to propel Galatasaray to the Final Eight podium and are pitched against Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje, Fenerbahce and Kayseri Kasi spor in Group A.