Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various websites and publications across Europe.
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There are just a couple of weeks to go in the EuroLeague Women Regular Season after week 12 settled some issues but also raised a few others.
|Candice Dupree leads a balances Sparta&K team with 13.8 points per game|
ROLLER-COASTER RIDE FOR TEAM-ORIENTATED SPARTA&K
One of the most intriguing features of the season so far both in the context of EuroLeague Women and domestically, has been the roller-coaster ride of former four-time champions Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje.
The road to landing more success has witnessed an occasional nasty bump so far for Pokey Chatman and her players and yet despite this, the Russian giants could still end being the top seeded team.
You certainly can't knock their proud record in the competition. This week they confirmed their status as Group A winners and that is the sixth time in seven seasons they have topped their respective group during the first phase of the competition.
Now they are searching for the status of top seeds (outside of hosts Ekaterinburg) so they can perhaps pencil in a play-off series against the likes of either USO Mondeville, UE Sopron or perhaps Perfumerias Avenida.
And, whilst Candice Dupree was red-hot during the early stages of the season, it has been noticeable just how much Sparta&K have rotated almost incessantly during the last couple of months - something which should stand them in good stead for the remainder of the campaign.
They look like potential top seeds despite not having a single player in the top 20 chart of leading scorers, rebounders or steal merchants.
Additionally, not one single player has managed to average more than 26 minutes per game. In fact, a staggering ten players are all managing to find more than 15 minutes per game court-time.
YOUNG GUNS CONTINUE TO FIRE
Continuing the Sparta&K theme, there were impressive performances during this particular week of action from both Nika Baric and Ksenia Tikhonenko. The former top-scored for her team with 15 points in what was one of her best games so far in a Sparta&K vest.
The general feeling is that the playmaker is making steady progress in trying to attain the level required which would see her realise the incredible potential she first showed when she played for the Slovenian national team as a wonder-kid.
Tikhonenko meanwhile has continued to make some very noteworthy contributions on loan from Sparta&K at Municipal Targoviste. She had her second highest score of the season in the loss to UE Sopron and just missed out on a second double-double of the campaign by one rebound.
It's probably still too soon to speak of her as being a contender for the senior national team, but that of course depends on whether coach Alfredas Vainauskas decides to blood some younger players - the safe bet is that he probably won't.
I do however always think that any tournament competing team with a roster of 12 should have at least one rising star in it and Tikhonenko would get my vote. Although Russia are obviously well served in the frontcourt and it still may not be until 2015 when we see her utilised.
|Farhiya Abdi remains the leading scorer for Brno despite a shooting slump in the past two games|
From the outset, let me reiterate that I love Farhiya Abdi. She's a dynamic player with great athleticism, attitude and has a sensational future in the game as evidenced by being drafted to the WNBA. She is also deservedly a nominee for the FIBA Europe Young Womens' Player of the Year gong.
I am guessing that it is something to do with developing her game, adding to her skill-set, making her a more rounded player or maybe it's just where she feels her future lies. Unfortunately, I just don't get it at all.
Even taking into account the above, you will never convince me it is beneficial to either Abdi herself, or the team, for her to needlessly waste energy dribbling the ball down the floor to nine times out of ten do what? Yes, make a basic pass of a few metres to someone else.
I am no coaching expert, but it worried me in Debrecen last year and it worried me watching her in patches against Rivas. Surely, Abdi should not be wasting precious energy on such a functional and straightforward job. And before playmakers complain to me, I know they do their precious golden work in the danger zone!
Surely Abdi should be exploding from the wing, slashing to the hoop, coming off screens, squaring up in one-on-one situations and basically showing she has enough in her locker without having to do absolutely everything.
Like I say, I love the skills she possesses, but I genuinely fear that the main and seriously heavy guns in her armoury are becoming less potent because of too much water-carrying which frankly, somebody else should be doing.
By all means handle the ball more and improve the skill base. But please, not as much. I think the phrase is ‘enough already'. Just allow her to go to work it in the most dangerous areas and where it hurts opponents the most.
They say that you should always do what your opponents want you to do least. If I am an opposing coach trying to lock down and contain a stellar talent like Abdi, I would absolutely love her to mainly have the ball in her hands when she is the furthest away from my team's basket.
I rest my case.
SMILES ALL ROUND
There were a couple of good reasons to smile during this week of action. Most importantly, it was great to see Laura Macchi back in action for Schio. It's hard enough when players are sidelined with sports injuries, but even more worrying when it is an illness, so a big welcome back Laura!
Yes, Russia has the very highest standards when it comes to paperwork and without his passport being in order, he was not allowed to stay and missed the game against Sparta&K!
Typically, Jordi took it all the very best way possible and saw the funny side as you would expect from somebody of his character!
However, it is at this point that I only smile a little, because what goes around comes around, and I still have to get my visa and paperwork in place to undertake business in Russia at the Final Eight in a couple of months!