|Valeriya Musina's form for CCC Polkowice exploded following the EuroLeague Women Final Eight, eventually earning her Polish Finals MVP honours|
FROM FAMINE TO FEAST
CCC Polkowice head coach Jacek Winnicki was quizzed at the EuroLeague Women Final Eight as to why he persevered with Musina due to a prolonged shooting slump which harvested less than 28% from the floor over an eye-watering 18 months, including the Final Eight in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Irritated, the play-caller backed his player, enthusiastically re-enforcing her tenacious qualities and passionately describing her as one of his most important players.
A few weeks later, Musina exploded and the famine was over - replaced by a veritable feast. A string of sensational displays resulted in her being crowned Polish Championship MVP and a late call up for Russia at EuroBasket Women.
"Positive things come with experience," reflected the player on her change of fortune.
"I don't think I was experienced enough to be as consistent as I should have been. It's about concentration, making good decisions and trying not to rush shots - that's all.
"It was an amazing season for us, because for the first time in the history of CCC Polkowice, we won the Polish League, Cup and Championship, and we also had a blast in EuroLeague Women.
"It was special to get to the Final Eight in Ekaterinburg in the second year of Polkowice playing in the tournament, because many teams in Europe didn't make it.
"It was a big success for our team, coaches and everybody involved."
She continued, "For me, getting the MVP award (in the Polish Finals) was a surprise, I never expected it.
"I just did my job and played my role. It was a ‘payment' for my hard work during the past three years.
"Now is a good time to again say thank you to my teammates for helping me get the award."
The unprecedented success for Musina and the club means the bar has been raised in terms of expectations for the forthcoming season. Although a repeat might be difficult with a couple of notable departures in the summer.
She said, "Our goal is to win the Polish Championship again and get as far as we can in EuroLeague Women, although I don't think we have a special goal in this competition.
"I can promise we will fight until the end and the most important goal is to never give up.
"They played in crucial positions so it's a big task for our new teammates to replace them.
"We have to adjust our new players to our defensive-minded style and it can take some time.
"Janel McCarville is a completely different player to Nneka, but I think she can help us a lot with her excellent court vision and passing abilities - she is a true team player," continued the 26-year-old.
"It's a good and interesting group. Every team has good players. We know many of our opponents from the two previous EuroLeague Women seasons and will be able to compete with everyone for sure."
RUSSIAN FAILURE A LEARNING CURVE
|Valeriya Musina learned a lot in her maiden campaign at EuroBasket Women, despite a poor showing from the Russians|
Just like the roller-coaster ride at club level, Musina has found national team duties bitter-sweet to say the least.
Making her major tournament debut, the defending champions bombed out at the first hurdle in France and consequently missed out on the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.
"The time spent with the national team gave me a lot - it was probably the biggest experience of my whole career" she mused.
"I grew up there and learned new things. It was an extra motivation to work even harder.
"Of course, I'm not satisfied with how we played, but I'm looking forward to an opportunity of being part of the Russian national team again and I'm trying to take only positive things.
"Now I know what I have to work on," she added.
"I still have a lot to improve. I know everything was not perfect, but I want to be back there.
"We don't know yet who is going be the new coach, but it doesn't matter for me. I'd love to play for my country and qualify for the Olympic Games in 2016."
VESPA VA VA VROOM
Musina could have been a track athlete when younger, but wearing her heart on her sleeve and fighting for a team was best suited to hoops - even if she has a different side away from the hardwood.
She said, "I have always been a very good sprinter, but basketball offers many more emotions than running.
"I'm not as aggressive as I look on the court as a person, I'm much friendlier and softer.
"I love kids, it's always a big pleasure for me to meet and see them. It gives me a lot of positive energy and I really enjoy it.
"Oh and I'm also a very, very big fan of Vespa scooters. During each off-season, I ride my Vespa around much more than my car."
Musina will begin driving CCC Polkowice towards more EuroLeague Women success in Group C against Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje, WBC Novi Zagreb, Galatasaray Odeabank, Perfumerias Avenida, ZVVZ USK Prague and Kibirkstis-Vici Vilnius.