By Paul Nilsen
|Arguably one of the best shotblockers in the competition, Anastasiya Verameyenka remains one of the main threats for Nadezhda|
After their encouraging first season back in EuroLeague Women, Nadezhda will pose a threat once again as they prove there are more than just dangerous two teams from Russia.
Having had a difficult start last year, the club gained some real momentum and many tipped them to possibly cause an upset of sorts in the play-offs but they were subsequently beaten by Wisla Can Pack which meant a disappointing end to a noteworthy campaign.
With Becky Hammon and Shameka Christon providing the veteran ‘know-how' and Tina Charles exploding onto the EuroLeague Women scene, Nadezhda enjoyed dipping their toes back amongst the elite last time out.
With this trio having all since departed Orenburg, there are some new names for the fans to cheer with three very exciting names replacing them. Working alongside home favourite and shot blocking sensation Anastasia Verameyneka will be the powerful Rebekkah Brunson who should cause havoc in the paint for opposing defences. She has such a great track record of playing in EuroLeague Women.
Meanwhile there is much more youthful feel to the backcourt with the club putting their faith in Russian National Team guards Elena Danilochkina and Natalia Zhedik. The former was the main architect of their gold medal during the summer while the latter played well last year at the FIBA World Championship only to be ruled out of EuroBasket Women with injury.
There will be some big pressure on this all-new back court to perform and they will be pivotal to how Nadezhda will fare this season. I really can't wait to see how they play for their new team and especially since Hammon is a big act to follow from an assist and experience point of view at least.
Another player who will be really important is Liudmila Sapova who will bring energy and variety on the wings once again as she looks to build on a strong 2011 campaign and the joy of winning gold at her first major tournament with the National Team. Similarly, Olga Ovcharenko and Katsiaryna Snytsina will do very much the same as Sapova by contributing in all areas.
EUROLEAGUE WOMEN 2011 - Nadezhda finished in fourth spot in Group D with a 5 and 5 record before losing in the eighth-finals to Wisla Can-Pack.
|A big void to fill: Rebekkah Brunson arriving from Ros Casares to step in the shoes of Tina Charles|
THE GAP TO FILL - Tina Charles was immense last season. She had a terrific year and in fact, it was truly the mother of all rookie seasons! She left Orenburg having posted a mind boggling double-double of 19 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. With her added shot blocking ability, she is a tough act to follow but Brunson could fit the bill, even if she is a different type of player.
STAR CHOICE - While Brunson would be the choice of most people, it's impossible not to highlight the reigning EuroBasket Women MVP as the likely star of the team this season. Elena 'Golden Hand' Danilochkina was quite beautiful to watch in Poland and it was not only her shooting prowess which caught the eye but also her decision making and the way she made it all look so easy by gliding around the floor assasinating opposing defences. It will be fascinating to see if she can continue her good work and EuroBasket Women 2011 will be the springboard to take her career to the next level.
RISING STAR? - 21 year old forward Anastasia Logunova will make her EuroLeague Women debut this season having made the switch from WBC Dynamo where she has played in EuroCup Women. A stand-out player for the National Team at youth level, she will have to battle hard for court time behind the likes of Verameyneka and Brunson but is capable of taking her opportunity if it comes her way.
DID YOU KNOW? - Anastasiya Verameyenka swatted a stunning 36 shots last season and was the leading shot-blocker in the competition.
THE NILSEN NOTE - Belarus National Team star Ekaterina Snytsina is a hugely talented player and after missing the whole of last season due to a serious injury, I am sure I am not the only one who hopes she will have a strong season and show all of the intensity that we are used to seeing.