We take a look at the Euroleague Women prospects of Turkish champions and last year's Final Eight runners-up.
|Even more power under the hoop: Isabelle Yacoubou arrives in Istanbul via Sparta&K|
Last season: Fenerbahce were just edged into second place by Good Angels Kosice in Group B, with both teams finishing the opening phase with an impressive 9-3 record. The Istanbul giants punched their ticket for Final Eight with a comfortable win in the play-offs and then rode all the way to the Final in Ekaterinburg where they were eventually beaten by hosts UMMC.
Roster review: Fenerbahce have effectively retained the entire team which made the Final of the competition, but look to have upgraded their frontcourt options with the power and personality of French star Isabelle Yacoubou, along with Turkish national team pair Tuge Canitez and Quanitra Hollingsworth. That means Hollinsworth also having the inside track of life under arch rivals UMMC and the way their coach Olaf Lange operates. When you throw in the fact that Ivana Matovic and Belarusian Anastasiya Verameyenka, who were both outstanding in the paint last year stay on the roster, there is justification to argue that Fenerbahce can match UMMC under the hoop. They aren't too shabby in other departments either, with the wings patrolled by the huge talent of Angel McCoughtry and the more understated but often hugely effective contribution of former Euroleague Women All-Star and Polish national team leader Agnieszka Bibryzycka, whilst Kubra Siyahdemir offers versatility off the bench. The ever-impressive Birsel Vardarli and Cappie Pondexter remain the reference players in the backcourt, but veteran Esmeral Tuncluer is still the unsung hero. Rising star Olcay Cakir has already experienced Final Eight as a teenager and will be fighting to gain more minutes this year.
|Angel McCoughtry will be closely watched by Fenerbahce fans as she might hold the key to going one place better this year|
Headline writer: It's almost impossible to pick because there are so many options, but McCoughtry probablyholds the key to success in the small forward spot. With capable and experienced guards and a fabulous frontcourt line-up, it could be the season which the American registers which ultimately determines whether Fenerbahce can meet their aim of topping the podium. However, maybe it is head coach Roberto Iniguez who can write the headlines. For whilst he has more fantastic players at his disposal, he must shuffle things around and get his rotations adjusted to keep so many frontcourt stars contented - a challenge he will relish and love.
Sliding onto the radar: With so many established stars, there isn't really anyone in particular to point to, although Cakir will be hoping that with the backcourt not quite as deep, maybe she can get herself back onto the EuroLeague Women radar. She started a semi-final 18 months ago in Istanbul at the Final Eight and should be mature enough now to convince Coach Iniguez she is ready for more responsibility.
Scanning the schedule: Nothing will faze Fenerbahce in terms of how their games are laid out, since they will be huge favourites to finish top of Group B against UE Sopron, Rivas Ecopolis, Wisla Can-Pack, Nadezhda, Lattes Montpellier and BK Imos Brno.
In just ten words: Fabulous roster and coach means possible repeat Final with UMMC.