|07 March 2007|
by Jeff Taylor, PA Sport
Elisa Aguilar of Ros Casares is thrilled to be taking part in the second EuroLeague Women All Star Game, which is being played in Valencia.
But she’s keen to stress that Thursday is about so much more.
“It’s a perfect time to have it, on March 8 – international women’s day,” she said.
It has been a year since the launch of the FIBA Europe initiative which aims to raise the profile of the women’s game.
Aguilar says the project has not just been about women in sport.
|TEO Vilnius' Katie Douglas has seen a dramatic increase in the level of play in Europe. |
“Women need to be promoted in all areas of life,” she said.
Katie Douglas lives in Lithuania and plays for TEO Vilnius.
While Aguilar is representing the European team, Douglas, an American, will play for the Rest of the World team.
She says since the Year of Women’s Basketball was launched this time last season, there have been changes on the court, and not just with logos.
“The level of the EuroLeague Women is as high as I’ve seen since playing in Europe,” she said.
One hope that all women players shared before the launch was increased exposure in the media.
The All Star Game has taken that into account, with the glitzy event to be shown live in its entirety on a fibaeurope.com webcast with no charge for viewers.
The game will also be televised in Spain and Russia.
As part of FIBA Europe’s drive to promote women’s basketball, the EuroLeague Women Final Four at the end of the month will also be broadcast on fibaeurope.com.
“I’m going to tell all of my friends back home (in Hungary) that they can watch the game,” said Dalma Ivanyi, who will play for the European side for the second straight time.
Nicole Powell, who plays for Halcon Avenida and has been voted into the Rest of the World Team, definitely believes the project has been positive for the game.
“Absolutely, the women’s game is getting more popular,” she said.
“I was at Fenerbahce, and to come here at Salamanca and have 3,000 screaming people at every game, yes, the game’s getting more popular.
“The game is absolutely growing, we have some really great athletes and this (All Star Game) helps create a showpiece for women’s basketball.”
“Just to be a part of the Year of Women’s Basketball is great,” added Cappie Pondexter, the Fenerbahce sensation who will play for the Rest of the World.
“Hopefully I can help elevate it to the next level. I know they’re striving to do that.”
There is no better advertisement for basketball than Pondexter, who hails from Chicago and played college basketball at Rutgers.
“I try to play with a lot of excitement,” she said.
“I play because I love it. I don’t play for the money. I do it because I want other young women to watch and to want to have the same dreams that I had.”
In between the two teams practices this afternoon, the All Star players received an update on the progress of the campaign from Year of Women's Basketball Project Manager Esther Wender.
All Star Extravaganza
There is a real basketball buzz in Valencia, with Ros Casares having won a thrilling best-of-three quarter-final series against Fenerbahce to advance to the Final Four and now with the city hosting the All Star Game.
There are three players with connections to the club, including Aguilar, Delisha Milton and former Ros star Amaya Valdemoro who now plays in Russia with CSKA Volgaburmash.
Laia Palau and Alison Feaster Strong of Ros Casares will not play in the game itself, but they will take part in the three-point shooting contest at half-time.
The players think the All Star Game event is terrific.
“We players deserve it and I’m thrilled that we can be here in my hometown of Valencia,” Aguilar said.
“It’s going to be a party, but a party for the fans.”
Powell can’t quite believe that she’s taking part.
“To play in the FIBA Europe All Star Game is something that I never pictured for myself and I’m really happy to be here,” she said.