By Paul Nilsen
|After several years abroad, France international Edwige Lawson returns home to direct the Montpellier orchestra in their return to EuroLeague Women|
BLMA will hit the EuroLeague Women trail once again and hope they can bury memories of a nightmare rookie season.
The club dipped their toes into the elite level during 2008/09 and managed to win only one of their ten games, in what proved to be a tough initiation.
However, the current roster is unrecognisable from the one that toiled unsuccessfully to rack up victories last time out, so few players will be haunted by that experience. Indeed confidence around the club generally is high, after securing the French Cup last season and registering a 3-0 start to the new campaign.
BLMA certainly look destined to improve on their disappointing debut season and, looking at their line-up, perhaps even launch a serious challenge to make the knockout stages.
They don't lack experience and right through the main spine of the roster, they possess players who know what is required in EuroLeague Women.
It will be the familiar face of France National Team guard Edwige Lawson running the team on the floor as she arrives back home after a lengthy absence playing her basketball outside of France. Long-serving Gaelle Skrela will be alongside her, along with the much improved Virginie Bremont, while 18-year-old Lea Blatrie looks like she will be given an opportunity to grab a handful of minutes too.
Operating inside, Kristen Mann is capable of scoring and rebounding in a big way while Fatimatou Sacko and veteran Sandra Dijon have lots of EuroLeague Women experience.
At the other end of the spectrum, young duo Stephany Skrba and Diandra Tchoutchang offer an exciting and dynamic element for the future, even if the latter is still recovering from injury.
With Croatian star Ana Lelas linking everything together by offering a multitude of skills and options on the wing and even in the paint, it completes a nice line-up although depth could possibly be an issue if injuries arise.
But, if the team generally stays healthy and gets off to a good start, then the recent feel-good factor could continue for BLMA.
|The all-around play of Croatian forward Ana Lelas will be the glue that keeps the Montepellier offense together this year|
EUROLEAGUE WOMEN 2011: BLMA did not compete in EuroLeague Women last season.
THE GAP TO FILL: Iva Perovanovic had an excellent season and was instrumental in the success which Montpellier achieved, even if she did suffer the heartbreak of missing the French Cup Final through injury. Now he has moved on to CCC Polkowice, it will be a tough void for BLMA to fill since she was a marquee player last year.
STAR CHOICE: Ana Lelas is a always an important factor on any team due to her versatility which will be useful once again during here second season in Montpellier. Having recovered from the injury which cut short her EuroBasket Women journey, she's back and typically contributing in all areas of the game. Whether it is scoring both inside and out, rebounding or finding an open team-mate, Lelas will be in the thick of the action this season - guaranteed.
RISING STAR: There are few more exciting young players around than 20-year-old Diandra Tchatchouang and all eyes will be on the Maryland graduate as she embarks on her rookie professional season once she has finished her rehabilitation from injury. She has performed in impressive fashion with the National Team at various youth levels and will soon be pushing to be a regular with the senior team having already made a number of training camps.
DID YOU KNOW? Gaelle Skrela is the only survivor from the team which first stepped out in EuroLeague Women during 2008.
THE NILSEN NOTE: It's not much less than an entire decade since Edwige Lawson last played in her homeland and I am fascinated to see how she directs traffic this season as a veteran playmaker. Her role will be crucial not only because of her point guard status but because of her experience at the very top level in EuroLeague Women having played on some of the best teams to have graced the competition.