Final Eight: Ambassadors' Opinions

03 April 2014
Hana Horakova
Edwige Lawson-Wade
Ilona Korstin
Amaya Valdemoro
Hana Horakova was a regular fixture on the senior women's scene for well over a decade with 14 EuroLeague Women campaigns to her name. Playing for the Czech Republic, the guard won gold and silver medals at EuroBasket Women, as well as a silver medal at the 2010 World Championship for Women.
Edwige Lawson-Wade enjoyed a storied career playing in EuroLeague Women before going out on a high as a member of the silver-medal winning French team at EuroBasket Women 2013, having previously won a gold medal in the same tournament in 2001. In 2012, the point guard added an Olympic silver medal to her trophy case.
Three-time EuroLeague Women champion Ilona Korstin called an end to her playing days following EuroBasket Women 2013. In 13 major events, including three Olympic and three World Championship appearances, she led Russia to two Olympic bronze medals, as well as two EuroBasket Women gold medals and a silver.
Amaya Valdemoro has been the face of Spain over the last two decades, participating in nine EuroBasket Women Final Rounds, four World Championships and two Olympic Games, additionally suiting up in 14 EuroLeague Women campaigns. The small forward crowned her illustrious career with gold at EuroBasket Women 2013.


With the EuroLeague Women Final Eight set to tip off in Ekaterinburg, Russia, FIBA Europe questioned their women's ambassadors on how they see the tournament panning out.


7. Evgenia Belyakova (Sparta&K MR Vidnoje)
 Evgenia Belyakova and Sparta&K MR Vidnoje impressed Ilona Korstin in the regular season

Which team impressed you most during the regular season?

HH: ZVVZ USK Prague because finally they are in the Final Eight and I hope that this is not their last say in the competition.

ELW: The team that impressed me the most was Fenerbahce because they were very constant in the regular season, finishing it undefeated. They are very strong inside and the team has a lot of experience.

IK: I saw some of the games of Sparta&K in Vidnoje and I like how they played this season. The budget of the team went down this year, but the team remained very competitive. The Russian players (Evgenia) Belyakova and (Natalia) Vieru are the leaders of the team and it is a good thing for the national team. In addition, I'm glad to see that there are a lot of young players who were formed in the club, now playing on the team.

AV: Kayseri Kaski spor. It is their first season in EuroLeague Women and they have been very competitive. They had a regular season group which included Kosice, Ekaterinburg, Bourges and Schio. It was not easy and then they withheld the pressure of a tough play-off series.


Which coach do you believe has best utilised their resources to arrive at this stage of the season?

HH: I can not say who has been the best as I do not know them individually, but by simply getting their teams to this stage of the season already speaks volumes of their coaching ability.

ELW: I think Valerie Garnier did a great job in qualifying Tango Bourges Basket even with two main players in Cathy Joens and Johannah Leedham missing a significant part of the season.

IK: All the teams worked hard to qualify for the Final Eight. That means it was the players, management and of course the coaches who did a fine job in achieving the goal. However, the real fruits of the coach's work will be seen in Ekaterinburg.

AV: Ayhan Avci of Kayseri Kaski spor, whilst Aleksander Vasin has also done a great job with Sparta&K.


Which team has the biggest potential to surprise in Ekaterinburg?

7. Jelena Dubljevic (ZVVZ USK Prague)
Hana Horakova believes Jelena Dubljevic  and ZVVZ USK Prague have the ability to upset in Ekaterinburg

HH: Every team that simply got here is of a high quality, but it is true that for some teams more is expected in the Final Eight than others. I think USK Prague, Kayseri Kaski spor and Nadezhda Orenburg all have the ability to surprise, but I am especially betting on Prague.

ELW: Galatasaray have not been in the gold medal game for a while but I feel like they could be a good surprise because they played attractive basketball this year.

IK: Bourges have the ability to surprise in Ekaterinburg, just like they did when they defeated UMMC Ekaterinburg [in the regular season]. Celine Dumerc is the player behind her team's successes.

The other team with the ability to surprise is Nadezhda. They have improved their game this season and you get the sense that they have real motivation to do even more.

AV: My favourite in the following order are Ekaterinburg, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. The surprise team could be Sparta&K making it to the semi-finals. The Turkish teams also have the ability to stun the host.


On an individual level, which player has the elements to surprise?

HH: On this, I will have to wait and see. There are great players, of whose ability I already know so they do not surprise me so much anymore, but for sure there are plenty of young players who can surprise.

ELW: Tanisha Wright could be a good surprise. It is her first time at this stage of a EuroLeague Women competition and could surprise a lot of people with her qualities and smart basketball.

IK: All players who play on the top European teams have a good level of basketball. There are the big stars and the young players. Each of the players has a specific role on their own team. However, the question is how the player can show the best of their game at the right moment. Who can handle the pressure, who can retain focus on the game and who can show the best game will be the best. If it's one of the young players it will be a surprise.

AV: Alba Torrens and Sancho Lyttle are no surprises but they could be fundamental in surprising Ekaterinburg.


13. Candace Parker (UMMC Ekaterinburg)
Candace Parker looks to be in the race for MVP honours once again

Which player will be MVP?

HH: It is hard to say because we have a lot of great players and it will be seven days of great basketball so we will wait and see who will be in the best shape!

ELW: I think Candace Parker will be MVP. She is at the peak of her game. She can score from everywhere on the court and the opponents' attention on defence will be on Taurasi.

IK: It's hard to tell what will happen in the future. My opinion is the player, which will lead her team to victory, will be MVP.

AV: Candace Parker.


Who is the smart money on to win and why?

ELW: The team to bet on is Ekaterinburg. The roster is very deep. They have scorers (Taurasi and Parker), proven winners and great defenders such as (Sandrine) Gruda and (Deanna) Nolan that can take care of their opponents' best players. Their talent is very well coached by Olaf Lange and Sandy Brandello, two of the best coached I ever played for in my 17 years of playing professional basketball.

IK: UMMC Ekaterinburg. They have home advantage and are a very strong team with some of the best players in the world. In addition, the fans from Ekaterinburg will of course strongly support their team.

AV: UMMC Ekaterinburg playing at home with a deep roster with high-quality players. They have everything needed to be champions.





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