New-Look Phard Return To Europe
Mariangela Cirone will be a crucial figure for Phard Napoli if the Italian side is to make waves in the EuroLeague Women this season.
The Naples outfit are back in the competition for the first time since the 2005-06 campaign when they reached the eighth-finals and their first game is on Wednesday in Istanbul against Fenerbahce.
Cirone, a 1.70m. guard, claimed the most valuable player award last season in Italy after firing her team to the Scudetto and the honour has given her a lot of confidence this year.
"It gives me a great joy to have won this award because it's the icing on the cake for a very special season, where we won the Scudetto," she said.
"This award gives me an extra motivation to continue to give my best on the court."
Phard have bolstered their line-up with small forward Adia Barnes, who spent last season with Ekaterinburg in the EuroLeague.
The Italians have also added Turkish international Yasemin Horasan and Latvian Lasma Jekabsone-Kartiba, players who can line up at power forward or center.
Former Besiktas star Horasan shone for Turkey at the EuroBasket Women in the summer, averaging almost 15 points and seven rebounds to help them to a ninth place finish.
Jekabsone, 22, is the daughter of a former Latvian volleyball star.
"We are a similar group but not the same with respect to last year and we still have a lot of work to do," Cirone said.
"The new players like Barnes, Horasan and Jekabsone have understood Phard's project and the high aims we have this season.
"We have a lot of willingness to do well in both the EuroLeague and the domestic competitions."
They have yet to gel in Italy, however.
Four games into the Lega Femminile campaign they are 13th with just one victory in four games.