BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Center Natalia Vieru is leaving Good Angels Kosice and Slovakia to return to Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje|
Good Angels Kosice were a combative side in the EuroLeague Women in 2011-12.
That is what everyone expects of the Slovakian side, a club run by general manager Daniel Jendrichovsky that unearths great talents year after year but often struggles to keep leading players onboard because of their financial constraints.
This is the team, remember, where Angel McCoughtry (Fenerbahce) and Candice Dupree (Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje) exploded onto the European basketball scene.
In 2011-12, a squad of unselfish Kosice players reached the Second Round of the EuroLeague Women under coach Stefan Svitek but came up short of the Final Eight after losing in two games to powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg.
The Slovakian outfit did finish the season on a high, though.
After parting with coach Svitek and putting in Maros Kovacik in charge, the club rolled through the Slovakian play-offs and captured the title.
It was a bittersweet championship, though, because fans knew it was the last they would see of their Russian star Natalia Vieru, who came into her own after moving to Kosice from Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje, as well as Erin Lawless, Danielle McCray and Jana Carnoká.
The saddest of all the departures is that of the 25-year-old Carnoká, who has decided to call time on a once promising career because of injuries.
The point guard only played in six EuroLeague Women games this season.
Fans of the Slovakian national team will remember Carnoká playing at EuroBasket Women 2009 in Latvia, helping the side reach the Quarter-Finals with some outstanding all-round play where she averaged almost 23 minutes per game for the Pokey Chatman-coached team.
|Erin Lawless is also departing Good Angels for Russia, but in her case the destination is EuroCup Women champions Dynamo Kursk |
"My health doesn't allow me to continue," Carnoká said.
Vieru, who has been named in Russia's preliminary squad for the Olympics, is returning to former team Sparta&K.
"I'm really happy for this season," she said.
"It's been a good season for me and the club because we won so much and the championship.
"I think we played a good season in the EuroLeague Women, but really I'm sad because a nice part of my life has ended.
"For me, Sparta&K is like home.
"I've spent four years there.
"But when I go from this club, I will leave some part of my heart here because I feel really good here and it really felt like home."
Lawless, a power forward from the United States, became a naturalized Slovakian and represented the national team last year in Poland.
The 27-year-old was on the books of Good Angels for three seasons.
The 1.85 Lawless caused a lot of problems for opponents because of her ability to step outside and drill one three-pointer after another for Kosice.
This season, Lawless hit 23 of 56 shots from behind the arc in the EuroLeague Women, an impressive 42.6% that ranked 13th overall in the competition.
The native of the American state of Illinois has decided to play for EuroCup Women champions Dynamo Kursk in Russia next season.
She was able to celebrate after the team's title triumph over MBK Ruzomberok, but had missed emotions.
"It's a great feeling but a sad feeling at the same time," she said.
"I think everyone on this team is so happy that we had a great season and did so well.
"It's bittersweet. You're happy and thankful but it's sad for me because this is home for me.
"I've been here for four years and I love everything about Kosice.
"It's been so great to me and Daniel and everyone in the organization has been so fantastic with me and I'm going to miss it."
As for the move to Dynamo?
"When I go to Russia," she said, "that will be my new adventure.
"It will be my chance to continue to play basketball and enjoy what I do."
Meanwhile, McCray is understood to be on her way to Beretta-Famila Schio in Italy.