|31 October 2011|
|Salome Kabengano already has international experience with Sweden and will look to transfer it successfully to the club level|
There is nothing more gratifying for Swedish basketball than to see the fruits of its labor.
There has been a plan in the Scandinavian country for several years, now, to develop youngsters into solid basketball players and both the clubs, and federation, are accomplishing that aim.
The evidence is there for all to see with Swedish players in the EuroLeague Women, and it will also be evident in the Eurocup Women, when Telge Basket from Södertälje run onto the floor for their first game against Dynamo GUVD of Russia next week.
Among those in the Swedish side will be captain Sally Kabengano, a guard/forward who oozes with talent.
Kabengano had the opportunities to cross the Atlantic and play college basketball in America but elected instead to remain and play for Telge Basket - the women´s team of Södertälje BBK - in their first European adventure.
"It is a very special moment," Kabengano said.
"It´s our first international tournament on senior level and a great challenge, but exactly the motivation we need."
The Youth National Team Experience
Kabengano hails from Nairobi, Kenya, but moved to Sweden at the age off eight with her mother.
Benny Johansson, the former coach of Telge, spotted her at a local school basketball tournament in Södertälje and knew immediately she had potential.
Kabengano went straight into the Södertälje youth program and then, after receiving citizenship in 2006, began wearing the Swedish national team shirt.
Representing the country has done wonders for her game, and confidence.
She has a bronze medal from the 2009 European Championship Division A that was staged in Sweden.
"The bronze medal that we won with our U18 team in 2009 was of course thrilling, but the most important moment as I see it, was in 2007, Kabengano said.
"That year, we came fifth in the U16 (European Championship Division A)."
Kabengano did her part that year, averaging 8.6 points, 3.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds in 33.9 minutes per contest.
"It was a major breakthrough, mentally and sports wise," she said.
"We collected our first-ever win over Russia and were the first Swedish team after the '88-89 generation to reach the European top level."
The Euro Challenge
For teams like Telge Basket to prove their worth, they need to compete in Europe and do so on a regular basis.
If there are going to be unknowns in the EuroCup Women, there is one certainty and that is that many a good player is going to be in the competition.
Telge are off to a flying start in Sweden with four wins in as many games, but they're about to come up against a higher level.
"We are in the tournament because we are qualified," Kabengano said.
Telge Basket swept Lulea 3-0 in last year's Sweden play-off finals.
"We have good players, and the only thing we can do is to practice hard and do what we know best," she said.
The First Test
The Russian clubs always seem to be in the reckoning for honors in the EuroCup Women.
While Dynamo GUVD are not among the elite in Russia, they should be able to hold their own.
"I know about a couple of the Russian players," Kabengano said.
"Star center star Elena Myasoedova, 24 and 1.83m, who played in the Russian gold winning team in the EuroBasket this year, is of course one of them."
The 24-year-old Myasoedova had played for national team coach Boris Sokolovsky at Dynamo GUVD.
Dynamo also have 1.88m forward Anastasia Shilova (20) and 1.85m guard Tatiana Petrushina (21), a couple of players that have played in Russia's youth national teams.
There will be experience in the shape of guards Xenia Kosolovskaya and Maria Khrustaleva.
Telge Basket are ambitious.
They bought the Täljehallen, the 2,400-seat arena that hosted the U18 European Championship for Women two years ago.
The Södertälje club will play their home EuroCup Women games there.
"We expect a sold-out arena and a great atmosphere," Kabengano said.
"It will be a great moment and hopefully a good show."