Final Four and Ann Wauters.
The event and player seem to go hand-in-hand.
Every spring, the EuroLeague Women celebrates its premier event - the Final Four.
And it seems that in every recent Final Four, you can count on looking in a team roster to see the name Ann Wauters.
To be exact, 2007 will mark the seventh consecutive time that the Belgian international will be among the semi-finalist teams.
|Wauters helped CSKA Volgaburmash win the 2005 EuroLeague Women title.|
Out of the six Final Fours she has already played in, Wauters' teams took the title three times (2002, 2004 and 2005).
No player in EuroLeague Women modern day history has played in seven consecutive Final Fours.
Wauters, who was named player of the month for February by the Basketball Federation of Russia and Planeta Basketball magazine, reflected on her record accomplishment and previous experiences in an exclusive fibaeurope.com interview.
FIBA Europe: Congratulations, Ann, on the amazing achievment of reaching your seventh consecutive final four, something that's never been done before. Did you ever dream that you could make history in the women's game like this?
Wauters: Thanks, it’s a great achievement but of course I could never have done this by myself. I have been fortunate to play with some great teams.
FIBA Europe: Which Final Four that you previously played in was most special for you?
Wauters: Every single one of them was very special. The one in Pécs (2004) was the most special. We struggled a lot that season, lost some games but at the right time we played our best game. Everyone on that team really knew their role and I guess that made us win.
FIBA Europe: Has the Final Four changed over the years, since you first played in it?
Wauters: It’s a great tournament with the best four teams of Europe. It has always been hard to qualify for the last four and it always will be.
FIBA Europe: What is the atmosphere like at Final Fours compared to other games you play in during the year?
Wauters: The atmosphere is always unbelievably intense. You can just smell it. Every team is just so focused to become champion. It’s the greatest time of the season. I am always looking forward to it!
FIBA Europe: For someone to have enjoyed so much success, there has to be inspiration. Where do you get your inspiration?
|This season, Wauters is averaging 19.4 ppg in the EuroLeague Women (third-best overall).|
FIBA Europe: How have you changed as a player since appearing in your first Final Four?
Wauters: I have changed a lot. I have a lot more experience now. As an athlete I have become stronger and I still work on my weak points every day to get better.
FIBA Europe: Do all your family and friends back home in Belgium pay special attention to your team's Final Four games?
Wauters: They follow it closely. My parents have come to four of them, some close friends have come to all of them. They know how important it is to me and they just love the atmosphere.
FIBA Europe: The remarkable achievement comes at a very important time for the women's game, since this is the Year of Women's Basketball. And, all of Europe gets a chance to witness year appearance since the game will be offered as a free webcast on FIBAEurope.com. What can we expect to see from you, and your CSKA Volgaburmash team-mates? Are you saving your best for this tournament?
Wauters: We have three weeks to get ready for the Final Four and we all are really focused now. We are not playing our best basketball right now, but hopefully we will be ready on the 30th.
FIBA Europe: When you look back, can you remember something about each Final Four?
Wauters: Yes each of them was very special, even the ones I lost. So each of them has its own special memory.
2001: Final Four Messina, we lost in the final against Bourges by two points. I can still see Cathy Melain making that last lay-up to win the game. I was 21 years old in my first Final Four.
2002: Final Four Lievin, first European Champion title for me with USVO Valenciennes. The final was against Gdynia. We had a ‘dream team’ and we played at home so we were the favorites. But we also had some pressure to play in front of our crowd. It was very nice to celebrate our first European title with all those fans, who sacrifice a lot to cheer for their team.
2003: In the Final Four in Bourges, we lost the final against Ekaterinburg. We played a very bad first half and trailed the whole second half and came up short. We were really disappointed.
2004: In the Final Four in Pécs, we won the final against Gdynia. For me this is the greatest Final Four. We played our best game at the right time. It was a tough season and still we managed to win. I will also remember the Pecs fans. They were incredible. After we won, they had a big stage on the main square. There were at least 8000 people. It’s a great memory.
2005: We won the Final Four at home in Samara. Edwige Lawson and I changed teams and won again with our new, Russian team. It was a very tough game against Brno and we won in the last seconds. I remember a great party with some vodka afterwards!
2006: In the Final Four in Brno, we lost the final against the home team. We were tired beginning this tournament (the Russian Cup was the weekend before the Final Four). Against a strong home team with some great play from Nykesha Sales, we didn’t have the strength to beat them.
FIBA Europe: How do you like your team's chances against Spartak Moscow? Do you think that this year's CSKA Volgaburmash team is stronger than the side from one year ago?
Wauters: Spartak has great players. We have beaten them three times this season, but we all know that they are a different team in the EuroLeague where all their foreigners can play. They have the home court advantage, but also the pressure that goes with it. So I think we have of our chances to beat them, but it won’t be an easy task…