Groups E to H follow suit in our EuroCup Women preview and you can find both finalists from last year in Kayseri Kaskispor and Dynamo Kursk as well as the 2011 champions Elitzur Ramla in the second part of the competition.
|Lara Sanders returns to Kayseri Kaskispor with the goal to win the title this season after 2nd place last year|
Group E - Horizont Minsk, Kayseri Kaskispor & Telge Basket
Last years' finalist Kayseri Kaskispor headline Group E having invested heavily in the pursuit of perhaps going one better this time. The Turkish club has brought in former EuroBasket Women MVP Evanthia Maltsi in a new-look backcourt alongside Spanish point guard Nuria Martinez whilst the powerful Nicky Anosike should wreak havoc in the paint in tandem with arguably the biggest coup of the summer in the competition - the acquisition of EuroLeague Women Final Eight MVP Asjha Jones.
Additionally, they have managed to hold on to Lara (Latoya) Sanders who was dominant en-route to the Final last season whilst it will be worth keeping an eye on Yasemin Dalgalar who made the bench for Turkey at the Olympic Games in London.
Tasked with springing an upset, a new-look Telge Basket Södertälje will do well to match their performances of last year now that some stand-out players such as Amanda Zahui and Binta Drammeh have departed. In Cleopatra Forsman-Goga, they have a solid foundation which has been added to with the likes of Swedish national team player Jennifer Stjarnstrom.
Paulina Hersler was outstanding for Sweden at the U18 European Championship in Bucharest and she will try to take over the mantle of Zahui inside whilst American combo Angelique Robinson and Devona Allgood should provide a significant threat.
Horizont Minsk produced something of a surprise last season by making the play-offs and the loss of Tatyana Troina has been fortunately tempered by the return to the club of another Belarus national team player, namely Tatsiana Likhtarovich. The biggest bonus for the Minsk club is that they have hung on to their prize asset Natalia Anufryienka as well as Ukraine centre Aleksandra Khomenchuk who was a tower of strength under the hoop last year.
Group F - Adana Botas, Dunav 8806 Ruse & Dynamo Kursk
|Mission title defense: Ausra Bimbaite & Dynamo Kursk|
Bulgarian club Dunav 8806 Ruse had better brace themselves in Group F since they probably have the most difficult set of fixtures of any club in the competition in having to face reigning EuroCup Women champions Dynamo Kursk and Turkish club Adana Botas.
They will have to play an unbelievable campaign to even stay remotely competitive against one stacked team that would arguably excel in EuroLeague Women and another in Adana Botas who would at least compete at the elite level.
Despite the fact Adana Botas have some talented and well-known faces such as center Courtney Paris and Quianna Chaney as well as two of the most exciting young Turkish players around in Pelin Bilgic and Elif Emertekin, they just don't look to be quite as deep as Kursk who will be one of the favourites to finish top of the podium again.
Dynamo Kursk have a terrific line-up with a host of EuroLeague Women and national team performers including Eshaya Murphy, Ausra Bimbaite, Temeka Johnson and Michelle Snow - as well as Russian players who know what it takes domestically such as Natalia Vodopyanova and Ekaterina Lisina.
Group G - Basket Landes, Dynamo Moscow, Partizan Galenika & VS Prague
When you consider the merits of the current Dynamo Moscow roster, you get a renewed sense of how tough the Russian League is, and just how many teams have a shot at the EuroCup Women title. With an impressive host of Russian national team players past and present in Ilona Korstin, Nadezhda Grishaeva and Tatiana Vidmer, the line-up will be further strengthened by Laura Harper.
Basket Landes have started the French league positively with the contribution of U18 European Championship MVP Olivia Epoupa a marvellous tonic. Another medallist is of course Marion Laborde who claimed silver at the Olympics with France whilst Karmen Guzman and Kamila Stepanova who both excelled for MBK Ruzomberok last season against Landes, have been brought in. Another addition is Spanish forward Tamara Albalde and so Landes look well set to progress.
Partizan Galenika met Basket Landes at the same stage last year and were no pushovers. The Serbian club have strengthened their line-up with the acquisition of Brooke Queenan but most importantly, have retained Milicia Dabovic and Dajana Butulja, their twin turbos from last season.
The wheels have come off slightly for VS Prague domestically since the new campaign tipped off. They have picked up a couple of unexpected losses whilst a serious injury to Evelien Callens is an additional headache. Young Czech Olympian Lenka Bartakova is the big hope with the playmaker supported by American Marshae Dotson, Belarus national team guard Aliaksandra Tarasava and veteran Petra Reisingerova.
|Shay Doron is back at Elitzur Ramla, ready to hunt another title|
Group H - Antakya Belediyesi, Elitzur Ramla, MBK Ruzomberok & Vilnius Kirbikstis
The last EuroCup Women Group is perhaps the most difficult to predict. Former champions Elitzur Ramla still look capable of making a splash and not least because they have scoring machine Shay Doron back. She is joined by fellow Israel national team players Katia Levitsky and Michal Epstein whilst Noelle Quinn has huge experience. Both Montengrin Ana Turcinovicand Polish centre Izabela Piekarska are tough customers under the hoop and the club can also call upon the likes of Amanda Jackson, Natasha Lacy and Ashley Walker.
Turkish club Antakya Belediyesi have signed EuroLeague Women champion Jana Vesela to lead their charge. Alongside her are some really interesting players including Turkish veteran Naile Cirak, the machine-gun like Jolene Anderson and the hugely exciting swingman Shekinna Stricklen who has just completed her rookie WNBA campaign with Seattle.
MBK Ruzomberok arguably were the biggest over-achiever last season but with Karmen Guzman and Kamila Stepanova both leaving, new head coach Stefan Svitek has his hands full trying to continue the momentum. On the positive side, important figures such as Kadidja Andersson and Katarina Tetemondova return whilst Nadia Parker is a welcome addition under the hoop.
Completing the line-up are Vilnius Kibirkstis and they also have a reasonable chance of making it out of the Group. They will certainly have chemistry with several national team and EuroLeague Women players who competed with VICI-Aistes including Rima Valentiene, Lina Pikciute, Vita Kuktiene and Mante Kvederaviciute.