EUROBASKET WOMEN QUALIFIERS
|Montañana, who turns 32 in October, has not even contemplated calling time on her international career before EuroBasket Women 2013|
By Paul Nilsen
When Spain prematurely crashed out of EuroBasket Women last summer, it could have marked the end of an era for their glut of veteran stars.
However, they are most definitely back and ready to show they have plenty of gas left in the tank.
Speaking on the eve of the all-important qualifiers for EuroBasket Women 2013 in France, Anna Montanana was in bullish mood and reflecting on the disappointment of their early exit in Poland - insisting an inevitable changing of the guard needs to happen on a high..
"It was very disappointing for all of us since we thought we had a good chance to get a medal," explained Montanana.
"But, things didn't work out and we had major injuries.
"Now it's time to think about the present and we are trying to place Spain in the right way again."
She continued: "It would be a dream to finish our careers with something special. I think we are all focused on firstly getting through this qualification and after that, we will see what happens.
"That's one of the reasons for our disappointment last year. We thought it was our chosen time to do something special.
"At least we still have the batteries to try it again!"
The likes of Elisa Aguilar and Amaya Valdemoro will also be central figures in trying to complete the essential mission of getting Spain back on track and competing for medals again.
Only this time, it will be a different face holding the coaching clipboard when the veterans step out.
"Even though last year was a disaster for us, Jose Hernandez did a great job and I have personally had great experiences over my years working with him," claimed Montanana.
"We got the medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship and that was something unique.
"Now I'm sure (new coach) Lucas Mondelo will be a success since has been doing it in Salamanca with Perfumerias Avenida and also with the youth national teams.
"They have similar styles," Montanana says of the former and the new coach.
They let the players have freedom on the court while the coaching team is approachable and easy to work with."
REDISCOVERING THE TEAM'S IDENTITY
If Spain wants to take the first step towards healing the wounds of their dismal display in Poland, then Coach Mondelo and his players simply must ensure they book their slot for France by finishing in the top two positions in Qualification Round Group D.
|The veteran power forward, who knows Lucas Mondelo well from her time at Salamanca, thinks the new Spain coach has similarities with his predecessor, Jose Hernandez |
While they are, understandably, red-hot favourites ahead of Bulgaria, Germany, Romania and Sweden, Montanana isn't taking anything for granted and is simply focused on delivering a successful campaign.
"Qualification games can be very tricky. We have to take it game by game and have respect for all the team," she said.
"They won't have anything to lose against us and we have to be ready for each of them.
"There are a couple of teams in our group that have good generations and it will be tough on their respective home courts.
"We have pretty much the same team as last year and I really believe it's a complete team which will be made even better when Sancho (Lyttle) helps us.
"The key for us is to play the same way that got us our success previously. By showing out our aggressive mentality and to always be fighting but also having fun on the court.
"If we find this and get our identity back, then we will be the team that we weren't last year.
"I have no doubts we are capable of success again."
Emerging unscathed from the next few weeks of action with a precious EuroBasket Women 2013 ticket well and truly punched will help to sugarcoat the bitter pill of last year.
But, just when Montanana and her colleagues may have started to move on, the Olympics will be tipping off and acting as an unpalatable and untimely reminder of their Katowice nightmare.
The forward admitted that the very notion of watching the Games on TV would have been unthinkable last summer but now she is ready to embrace the event.
"If you would have asked me a year ago, my answer would have been an absolute ‘No! I don't want to watch it' but now, it's almost a healing process," she offered.
"In fact, I'm even going to try to go to London to watch the basketball finals.
"I admit I will be very jealous to see the Olympic environment but it will be a motivation for me since I love the Olympics!
Perhaps the most important aspect for Spain moving forward is that the short, medium and long term future looks very bright indeed.
For whenever Montanana and her fellow veterans do eventually call time on their illustrious national team careers, there is unlikely to be a talent void.
"During the past decade, Spain has been very successful with the young teams and there are still many players ready to compete at a great level," smiled Montanana.
"I'm sure the future ambition of Spain will be fulfilled by them.
"We don't have that many tall players who can play at the five, but despite this, I think it will be compensated by the talent we have in the other positions on the court."