By Steve Douglas, PA Sport, Paris
Greece star Evanthia Maltsi was surprised to hear of her selection for next month's EuroLeague All Star Game - but plans to make her first appearance in the extravaganza a memorable one.
Maltsi got her reward for a string of strong displays for Bourges Basket this season by being named in the Europe team that will take on the Rest of the World in Valencia on March 8.
It will be a new experience for the inspirational forward, but she is delighted to be involved.
"I'm very happy," she told PA Sport. "It's a great honour for me personally.
|Evanthia Maltsi had a stellar performance at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.|
"It came as a surprise to me that I got picked. I don't know how things like this work but I didn't expect it."
She shouldn't be surprised.
Not only have her performances in Europe been good this season, but her terrific effort at the 2004 Olympics when leading Greece into the quarter-finals will not be forgotten anytime soon.
"I have just been working hard, and I can't wait for it now," Maltsi said.
"It will be a great experience, a great ceremony and a celebration of basketball."
The match comes in the Year of Women's Basketball, a initiative launched by FIBA Europe aimed at raising awareness of the women's game.
Maltsi believes things are changing for the better, adding: "I am happy that people in women's basketball are trying their best this year to make it more open to the public and more commercial.
"The level is getting really high, and the thing now is for us to promote it, and we are doing that.
"I am seeing something really good happening in France and travelling around for the EuroLeague, I can see it happening in Europe as well. It's getting better."
The 28-year-old is expecting a high standard of basketball on the night.
She said: "I have played against most of these players and I know how good they are.
"These are the best players in Europe, so it's going to be a party. This year has been a really good year for basketball in Europe, so basketball is going to be a winner on the night."
Maltsi has recovered from an injury that limited her participation in the early stages of the season, and is really starting to make Bourges tick.
They are flying in France's Ligue Feminine and made it through to the quarter-finals of EuroLeague Women with a 2-0 success against USO Mondeville in their best-of-three Eighth-Final Play-Off.
They meet TEO Vilnius next and Maltsi knows it will be a close-run thing.
"I think Mondeville are having a few problems with injuries and things at the moment.
"We were in better shape than them, so we took advantage of that.
"I haven't seen anything of Vilnius this year. But they have a really good team and everybody is dangerous. Anyone can score for them.
"The further you go in the EuroLeague the harder it becomes. We have an advantage playing at home first and that does give me some confidence, but it comes down to the 40 minutes on the court."
Maltsi is in good form at the moment, and scored 12 and 21 points in the two games gainst Mondeville.
But she knows there is always room for improvement.
"My goals are really high," she said.
"I've never been satisfied with myself. That's the only way you can get better."