|A busy summer with the national team awaits Zlatanova after the club season is over|
By Paul Nilsen
Mann Filter Zaragoza star Jaklin Zlatanova can't wait for the second half of the season to tip-off with the Bulgarian forward excited about her team's progress to the Eighth-Finals of EuroCup Women.
The Spanish side face Dynamo Kursk having reached the last sixteen with two impressive victories against Besiktas. Having won on the road in Turkey, Zlatanova and her colleagues had to keep their focus in the return leg.
"We knew the second game wouldn't be easy because Besiktas were a competitive team with good players."
"We prepared for the game very carefully and we knew that the key to winning was playing strong defence and stopping both Iziane Castro Marques and Kelly Santos from scoring."
This is the fifth successive season for Zlatanova in EuroCup Women and she certainly knows the competition well.
She is also currently at a club who are trying not only to secure success in European competition but also to challenge the domination of Liga Femenina big guns Halcon Avenida and Ros Casares.
"Our goal is to do our best, play good basketball and even knowing it will not be easy, to stay as long as we can in this competition."
"Zaragoza is an ambitious team with a long-term project not only in EuroCup Women, but also in the Spanish league too."
"We are trying to show that playing as a team and being the best team in defence is the way to win against every team in the Spanish league. The Queen's Cup (the Spanish Cup) is a great opportunity for us to show what we are capable of."
Ironically, it wasn't in EuroCup Women but at the elite level of EuroLeague Women where Zlatanova made her debut way back in 2004 when she stepped out as a mere 16-year-old for Tarbes.
Reflecting back on those memories, the Sofia born forward who is still very much a young player at just 22 years old is hoping she can one day return to EuroLeague Women and if possible with Zaragoza.
"It was a great experience for me to watch and play at the highest level of basketball. - especially practicing with great players like Carla Boyd, Gunta Basko, Katryna Gaither and the rest of the team."
"I learned from them what being professional really means and that you can be good player but also an extraordinary person."
"Of course EuroLeague Women is the best European competition and as a young player I would love to experience highest level basketball again."
"At the moment I'm happy being here in Zaragoza since I really enjoy working with my coaches and team-mates."
"I'm sure we are capable of doing important things this season and beyond."
Club basketball isn't the only thing for Zlatanova to look forward to in 2011. For she has already developed into one of the main threats for a Bulgarian national team who lost out on a place at EuroBasket Women in agonising fashion.
They will get a second chance to put that right when they enter the Additional Qualifying Round but even if they don't make it, the glass will still be half full rather than half empty as far as Zlatanova is concerned.
"Even if we didn't qualify last summer it was a great experience for all the team and we enjoyed being together and both winning and losing as a team."
"I think this team has a bright future and I hope I continue being a part of it."
"We realise that this summer will be very tough but we also know that this is part of growing up as a team and that this is the way to get ready for future competitions."
"We will work hard and try to do our best."