The Golden Hand And The Passed Torch

14.07.2011

Paulball

Paul NilsenPaul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various websites and publications across Europe. If you'd like to contact Paul you can e-mail him at paulballnilsen@gmail.com.

From rising stars to raised voices, there was plenty to savour at EuroBasket Women 2011 and not least the passing of the baton to 2013 hosts France.

In the second part of his round-up of EuroBasket Women 2011, Paul reveals more of his memories from Poland.

Golden Hand

8. Elena Danilochkina (Russia)
Elena Danilochkina shot an astonishing 55% from behind the arc over the tournament

It just wouldn't be right if I didn't reflect on the thrill of watching EuroBasket Women 2011 MVP Elena Danilochkina blossom during the tournament. One of my abiding memories will be watching her collect the award in a beautifully unassuming manner.

She played such smart basketball and it wasn't actually her devastating shooting which gave me the most pleasure. It was her composure and decision making which stood out. When you have the hot-hand like she had, it would be very tempting to shoot the ball more and more but she maintained a terrific balance and resisted that particular temptation for the good of the team.

Her ball handling and shot selection were every bit as impressive as her ability to barely miss a shot while of course she was also the answer to Russia's prayers at the point guard spot. While she still prefers to be at the two, I think Nadezhda have an authentic elite level combo guard for EuroLeague Women next season and a real smart cookie. I can't wait to see if she can take her fantastic summer form into the 2011-12 season.

It's Basketball -But Not As You Know It

There can be no doubt that EuroBasket Women 2011 winning coach Boris Sokolovsky came out with the quote of the tournament after his Russian team had just scraped past Great Britain in a bruising encounter.

His reaction to a game which was not exactly pretty for excess of 39 minutes and hideously ugly for the closing seconds was to state "This was not basketball. This was Vancouver Canucks against Boston Bruins."

It was a classic line which actually served as an appetiser for one of the most memorable and tense post-game conferences I have ever attended as the respective coaches managed to have a real spat in front of a handful of media representatives.

While Sokolovsky continued with his opening statement, Great Britain coach Tom Maher clearly felt the Russian play-caller was justifying the controversial elbow by Ilona Korstin which led to her being disqualified and consequently you could cut the tension with a knife.

An angry Maher responded with "Where I come from you don't defend cheap-shots so I guess we must live in a different neighbourhood"- along with a healthy dose of sarcasm when he said "It must be so tough for Russia having to play a team like Great Britain."

Then as things threatened to boil over for a moment, Maher stood his ground and stated "I am not having anyone call my team dirty."

It was verbal sparring at its best between two wily coaches and made for great entertainment.

In truth I felt the wily Coach Sokolovsky was trying to deflect any criticism away from a poor performance by his team while Maher was simply irritated by the suggestions his team were too physical taking into account it wasn't one of his players who had been kicked out of the game and he didn't have anywhere near the talent of Russia at his disposal.

While I don't think there will be any real hangover between the coaches themselves, I do wonder what might happen if the teams meet again next summer at the Olympic Games so keep an eye on that one should it happen!

Terrific Turcinovic

Ana Turcinovic (Montenegro)
Ana Turcinovic was a real revelation and a big part of Montenegro's success

As someone with a particular interest not only in Women's basketball but also in the youth game, it was with a huge smile on my face that I sat intently and watched Ana Turcinovic at EuroBasket Women 2011.

I couldn't take my eyes off her in Lodz because I just couldn't believe how aggressive and hard-nosed she is at the tender age of just seventeen years old.

Every time she was on court for Montenegro she was in the paint and being so breathtakingly physical in everything she did. Her battle for positioning in the post with Nevriye Yilmaz for example was such fun to study and typical of her approach go the game which I genuinely adore.

Her performances are a credit not only to Ana herself but also the programme at Merkur Celje since the Slovenian club has a great record of working with young female players (FIBA Europe Young Player Of The Year Nika Baric being another case in point.)

While Turcinovic still has a lengthy distance to go in terms of honing her skills and developing her technical ability, it was such a thrill to see a young player willing to play so hard against some of the top post players in European basketball.

Clearly reputations mean nothing to her and she won't be forced into her shell just because of her age or lack of experience. I really love that kind of attitude and long may it continue.

Montenegro and Lithuanian Fans

While respect is due to all fans that travelled in person to see the action at EuroBasket Women 2011, it would be hard to surpass the efforts made by either those from Lithuania or Montenegro who made it to Lodz.

We all know about the fervent support for basketball in Lithuania but this should never be taken for granted, and, as if only to remind us, several hundred Lithuanian fans packed onto a number of buses to make the pilgrimage to watch their team play the quarter-final against France.

Even more impressively, fans of Montenegro may have travelled in smaller numbers but it took them a mammoth and mind boggling 26 hour bus ride to get from their departure point to their destination. This shows just how much passion and commitment they have for both their team and country. To this, I tip my hat in utter admiration and respect.

It was such a shame that both sets of fans ended up watching their team lose before making the long trek home - especially for Montenegro who had won their first six games before the wheels came off in Lodz.

Hailing The Legend

Most of us have watched Maria Stepanova plenty of times but have I ever seen her as effective and as pumped as she was during the Final against Turkey? Probably not.

She made everything she did look so easy. While that was no major surprise coming from a player of her class and experience, it made it no less impressive. I just found myself purring inside as I revelled in the priviledge of watching a truly great player produce a great performance on the big stage.

I did wonder at the time if part of the reason she looked so focused, motivated and as animated as I have ever seen her (for example, she was punching the air after some of her scores) was because this might have been her last EuroBasket Women tournament.

While I have absolutely no evidence of that and it is simply a theory, I really hope I am wrong and we get to see her dazzling us not only at London 2012 but also in France a year later.

A Fantastic Feeling For France

This brings me nicely to my final memory of EuroBasket Women 2011 and that was the moment when the baton was placed in the hands of the next hosts, France.

I hadn't even sat and watched the Final between Russia and Turkey and yet I was already experiencing a real surge of anticipation at the launch of the logo for 2013.

I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect of having capacity crowds in a number of the new Arenas and I am really confident the French Federation will do a great job.

EuroBasket Women in France is promising to be the best Women's tournament yet and with this in mind, roll on 2013.


RELATED NEWS

Croatian Happiness, Turkish Promise06.07.2011
Team Profile: Germany16.06.2011
Team Profile: Latvia13.06.2011
Team Profile: Slovakia10.06.2011
Team Profile: Great Britain08.06.2011
Team Profile: Israel07.06.2011
Team Profile: Greece05.06.2011

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