Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various websites and publications across Europe.
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It had seemed like an eternity since everybody said their farewells in Istanbul at the Final Eight earlier this year and consequently it was a beautiful feeling when the Euroleague Women returned once again and was as brilliantly entertaining as ever.
DRAMA AND DISAPPOINTMENT UNFOLDS ON OUR SCREENS
|Giorgia Sottana and Famila Schio spoiled the welcome party for Municipal Targoviste|
The fairytale start for the Romanian club didn't quite materialise, but whilst losing in such agonising fashion is painful, this was just the kind of dramatic opening chapter to set pulses racing and attract more and more followers to the competition.
There was so much to savour and not least, seeing a fleeting glimpse of Schio forward Chiara Consolini back on a EuroLeague Women floor again, having suffered a serious knee injury seven months ago. It had previously been anticipated it might take a little longer for her to get out there, so it was a pleasant surprise for sure.
It was also a thrill to see U20 European Championship MVP Ksenia Tikhonenko grab a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds for Targoviste. Whilst she would like to have probably made a couple more free-throws, the important statistic was 31 - the number of minutes handed to her by George Dikeoulakos. Something which speaks volumes about the level of maturity she now has, even if she still has much to learn.
Greek play-caller Dikeoulakos was quoted after the loss saying 'the operation was successful but the patient died'. I know what he meant, but believe me, Targoviste are still alive and kicking. You can expect a resurrection.
The televised game was similar to the sizzling season opener between Nadezhda and Good Angels Kosice which was also a real thriller. And, just as with Consolini, I was so pleased to see Liudmila Sapova back on the court bringing energy for Nadezhda and claiming ten redounds having endured the crushing disappointment of missing last season through injury.
Although it must be said her night was almost spoiled with seven turnovers which was symptomatic of Nadezhda as a team since they spilled the ball an eye-watering 27 times. To their credit, Good Angels Kosice were responsible for some great ball pressure and 15 of those turnovers were actually steals.
EURO DEBUTANTES SHINE BRIGHTLY
One of the most interesting aspects of any new season tipping-off was seeing a vast number of EuroLeague Women
|Gabriela Marginean made her long-awaited debut in the EuroLeague Women for Municipal Targoviste|
debutantes and there was a rich tapestry woven into week one with a raft of players both young and (dare I say) old and from Europe and beyond.
Europe was certainly well represented with Spanish guard Cristina Ouvina claiming 10 points, six assists and five steals for Wisla at Bourges. There was also a landmark day for Sebnem Kimyacioglu of Galatasaray who grabbed 16 points via some sharp perimeter-shooting, a display supported by team-mate Ozge Yavaz who had 11 points and five assists. This pair reminded us that it won't be only the headline names who must contribute for Gala if they want to win the title.
My favourite European debutante was Gabriela Marginean who almost won the game for Municpal Targoviste - a potentially great headline which we just missed out on. Despite finishing on the losing team, she showed she is far too good to not be playing at this level and I am just so glad she has finally arrived. I can still vividly remember the magnificent play in crunch time when she made a steal, got down the court and finished left handed after a sweet spin-move - simply delicious.
DEBUTANTES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
I had already written the line that few people would surpass the nine assists dished out by Schio playmaker Giorgia Sottana this season when only a few hours later, I had to rip that up completely when Aussie playmaker Natalie Hurst had a spectacular debut with 10 assists to help Uni Gyor sneak past Brno. Chalysa Shegog also enjoyed a very fruitful first outing for the Hungarian club, shooting a barely beatable 88.89% from the field on her way to 17 points.
After jumping from the WNBA where she debuted with San Antonio Silver Stars, Shenise Johnson did the business for Uniqa Euroleasing Sopron to help squeeze past Arras, making the dagger shot down the stretch.
Danielle Robinson couldn't help Tarsus from slipping to defeat in their historical first ever game at this level although she did all she could with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. There was a notable performance from veteran forward Amanda Lassiter too.
There is huge expectation for Nnemkadi Ogwumike in her rookie season and she opened her account in the EuroLeague Women with 21 points and five rebounds for CCC Polkowice.
Naignouma Coulibay really lit it up in her first court-time. The Mali national team centre was superb with a 75% shooting performance to help USO Mondeville to a fantastic road win. Up until the display of Shegog 24 hours later, it was the best shooting performance of week one.
RISING STARS TAKE FIRST STEPS
|Lana Packovski gets a chance to prove herself on the top level at a very young age|
There were also a number of young players who grabbed their first taste of the competition and not least 1995 born Zsofia Hruscakova and her Good Angels Kosice team-mate Barbora Balintova. After the demise of the clubs' second team Dannax Sport, it had looked like they may struggle to force their way onto the roster, but they were handed some meaningful minutes in Orenburg.
Novi Zagreb faced a storm from the moment they stepped onto the court against the mighty Galatasaray although the one big ray of sunshine poking out from behind the clouds was seeing point guard Lana Packovski get her first minutes of action under her belt.
In the very same game, Turkish guard Ayse Cora also appeared and she is a great prospect who is enjoying herself on the floor having recently won bronze with the national team at the U20 European Championship Women.
Elsewhere, eighteen year old Dominika Owczarzak stepped out with CCC Polkowice and sunk her only field goal attempt to go with two made free-throws, making it a night to remember on a personal level - even if the result was a disappointment.
GROUP C DOES EXACTLY WHAT IT SAYS ON THE TIN!
Just finally, for the past few months, all I seemed to have talked about is how difficult Group C was going to be. And, after just forty minutes of action, this notion has already been given credence after the ambitious ZVVZ USK Prague and CCC Polkowice both suffered first night losses on their respective home courts.
Yes, it's going to be a monumental slug-fest for everyone looking to progress in that Group!