|Czech veteran Hana Horakova returns to Brno after having spent the last two seasonsin Turkey and Russia|
By Paul Nilsen
Having rejoiced during the glory days of challenging for titles, the fans have witnessed the hard-hitting impact of a reduced budget which has resulted in the team struggling to muster wins on a regular basis.
Last year was particularly tough for a threadbare roster which saw a bunch of young players all thrown in at the deep end and teenagers having to play way too many minutes out of sheer necessity.
Head coach Jan Bobrovsky is of course one of the most respected and successful coaches in women's basketball but even he could get worn down by continually fire-fighting. So, with this in mind, there can now be some cautious optimism that the club goes into this season refocused, refreshed and with hopes of posting a good set of results after a period of lean times.
The reason for that confidence is that the club has been able to bring in reinforcements including the likes of Czech Republic legend Hana Horakova who offers an almost immeasurable tonic.
Just the sheer presence of the 2010 FIBA Europe Women's Player Of The Year will be a boost both practically in terms of the vast experience and skills she offers, but also the additional impact on the younger players who will thrive from learning from her at practice each week and seeing the way she conducts herself off the floor.
Her production in the backcourt will undoubtedly take a load off some of the young players who felt the weight of a long hard season last year.
Horakova may not be as sprightly as she used to be, but showed enough last season during her brief spell with Good Angels Kosice to suggest she can, and still will be, a real threat. The additional dimension is that Coach Bobrovsky now has a true senior veteran to lean on when times are tough - a priceless factor.
There seemed to be a clear strategy by the Brno management during the summer to boost the frontcourt, evidenced by the arrival of Edita Sujanova from Györ (although she is still recovering from injury), Anna Jurcenkova from Good Angels Kosice and Nicole Ohlde who returns to EuroLeague Women after a two year absence.
Ohlde is relishing a return to the elite club level and knows what it is like to face a real challenge to win games after last stepping out with Pecs who had to fight in a tough situation.
|After a two-year absence center Nicole Ohlde is looking forward to her EuroLeague Women return|
AN EXCITING MIX OF YOUTH AND EXPERIENCE
"I'm very excited to be back playing in EuroLeague Women," smiled the center.
"This is the best competition in Europe as well as having some of the best players in the world. To be able to compete with those players and the best teams again is really exciting and I'm definitely looking forward to it.
"I actually don't have many bad memories of playing in the competition. Obviously some of the games that I have played in where we have lost badly are the bad memories but other than that, all my memories are really good.
"The opportunity to travel to different countries, experience different cultures and to also bond with your team-mates on the road are definitely positives."
She continued, "I think here in Brno we have a very good team. We have a nice variety of older experienced players as well as a lot of young talent. I think it will definitely be a good mix of players and we're excited for the season to start!"
Retained in the frontcourt is Tereza Peckova, the one Brno player who really posted a truly solid shooting season last year and she will probably thrive even more this time around with less work to get through and more help under the hoop.
Certainly Ohlde hits the nail on the head when she talks of a better mix of experience and youth. It means that young talents such as Farhiya Abdi, Alena Hanusova and Barbora Kasparkova should benefit enormously.
Whilst Hanusova has been injured recently, the real fascinating issue could be the continued development of Abdi who is subject to a global radar after being drafted to the WNBA.
She didn't shoot the ball well enough last year, or at least at the level her outstanding talent demands, but in her defence, that was perhaps more due to the situation she found herself rather than a lack of application.
Notably this year, the influx of post players may see her playing more and more in the three position and certainly being allowed to pick her moments, rather than having to force matters. It may mean get to really see her shine.
I guess the real test for Brno will be whether the backcourt and wings actually stand up to offensively. The versatility and class of Horakova is not in question and so there will need to be a good solid contribution from others.
There may be a significant onus placed on Veronkia Vlkova who gets an opportunity to impress on the eve of her long-awaited debut EuroLeague Women season, whilst Romana Hejdova will be the one to probably provide the bulk of the scoring from the wing.
In essence, Brno have a chance to sneak their way out of the group but must toughen up immensely. That may happen naturally from the influx of more experienced heads, but the young players also need to step up mentally and to mature.
Better options, smarter decision making, fewer turnovers and ultimately a better shooting percentage are all likely on paper, and, if this transpires as expected on the court, then there could be a more fruitful and positive season lying in wait.