| UMMC Ekaterinburg head coach Olaf Lange is rightfully wary of a strong Dynamo Moscow line up|
By Paul Nilsen
Having led UMMC Ekaterinburg to a majestic clean sweep last season, Olaf Lange is preparing his team for another assault on silverware - starting with the FIBA Europe SuperCup.
FACING UP TO DYNAMO
The EuroLeague Women champions will host domestic rivals and EuroCup Women winners Dynamo Moscow at the DIVS Arena on 29 October, with the Ekat head coach expecting an intense match-up.
He said, "I thought they had a fantastic season in FIBA Europe competition with obviously winning the EuroCup in an epic game on the road.
"In the Russian league they probably underachieved a little, which is more a testament to the quality of the Russian league, rather than pointing out any short comings of Dynamo.
"This year, I expect a lot more of them and they are certainly one of the main competitors in Russia ater adding two world class players to their ranks in Lindsey Whalen and Tina Charles.
"We are looking forward to some great battles with them."
NO ROOM FOR COMPLACENCY
Last season witnessed Ekat finally end their decade-long search for the EuroLeague Women title in emphatic style, sweeping all comers to take their place at the top of the podium in a memorable campaign, which had some important ingredients.
"Any time you have a special season, there are a lot of factors that come together and go your way and that was certainly the case last season," said Lange.
"However, if I had to name two that stand out with distance and perspective, I have to name both team chemistry and the buy-in into our total team concept."
Continuity seems to be the word this season with just one major change to the roster which has seen Ann Wauters replace Quanitra Hollingsworth.
Whilst great for any coach, it also potentially opens the door for complacency to creep in.
"Well, as a coach you always have concerns and as a team you always have your challenges and each year they come in different shape and forms. I can't deny that this thought has crossed my mind," confessed Lange.
"However, as a system and development-oriented coach, I take continuity over starting anew any day and rather face the challenges that come with that."
CLASS AND EXPERIENCE REMAINS KEY
|Ann Wauters is the one new inclusion to the UMMC Ekaterinburg line up at the expense of Quanitra Hollingsworth|
The retention of their glittering array of stars, including the addition of Wauters, has meant no new top-drawer rising stars being brought into the mix. But Lange is quick to defend the decision not to bring at least one emerging player into the mix.
He said, "I do like young and exciting players and there are a bunch of rising young stars all over the globe.
"Having said that, I have to disagree as far as our team is concerned.
"We have a veteran team with an extremely high basketball IQ. For a young player to be able to come to us and fit in our system is very unlikely as young players nowadays are certainly exciting as far as their individual skill set, and in some cases athleticism is concerned, but in almost all cases have a low basketball IQ.
"We wouldn't be able to provide a young talent with the amount of playing needed to develop their game and I certainly can't or won't change our system to fit in one player.
"It is much better for the player and us if they hone their skills somewhere else until they are ready to play in our team.
"Our players make basketball look simple, but there is nothing simple about playing in our system."
A GROUP OF DEATH EVEN FOR THE CHAMPS
UMMC will tip off their title defence in EuroLeague Women at the start of next month in the ‘Group of Death' and even for the tournament favourites, it looks like it could potentially be a real test.
"Our group is certainly tough and somewhat unpredictable," confessed Lange.
"The fact that this group features four of the Final Eight teams from March says it all.
"We have a powerhouse like Tango Bourges Basket who are significantly improved from last season, along with Good Angel Kosice, who have already shown in our pre-season tournament in Ekaterinburg that they are a force to be reckoned with.
"Then take Famila Schio into account, who played a fantastic regular season in 2012/13.
"On top of that, you have Kayseri Kaski spor, the Turkish newcomers who should be very strong at home, but may [also] surprise some people even on the road.
"And I certainly don't want to forget Uni Gyor, who will always play hard and fight - especially considering the tragic recent events.
He concluded, "Everything considered, you have the make-up of a great group and for me personally, I'd rather have my team challenged during regular season play, because it will prepare us best for the final battles.
"Hence I love our group and look forward to the challenge."
UMMC Ekaterinburg play their first Group A game at Uni Gyor on 07 November.