By Paul Nilsen
|Inna Kochubei hopes that Ukraine will move on and make up for the results at EuroBasket 2009|
BELIEF FROM THE COACH
Despite having initially stated that he feels Ukraine will be the weakest team in Group A, Kochubei hinted her boss had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he made the comment.
"First of all, I want to tell everyone, our head coach is the man who believes in our team the most," insisted the guard.
"Every single day, he reminds us about it and puts all of his heart into working with us.
"Like everyone else, our national team has been on a pathway of serious preparation ahead of EuroBasket Women.
"We have all been working very hard in practice and will try to approach the official games in our best shape.
"And what about our dreams?" continued Kochubei.
"Well, we have great wishes to get the very best results when we play at the tournament.
"To be successful in France, we will continue working hard, we will believe in ourselves and show great heart with a ‘one for all' spirit."
She said, "We respect all the teams in our group.
"The Turkish team is likely to have the most composure with such a great experience of playing together and consequently I think they might be a leader.
"But, Slovakia and Montenegro both qualified to EuroBasket Women in first place of their respective qualifying groups and that is exactly why each game will mean having to fight hard."
|Alina Iagupova is ready to take over responsibility at the senior level|
THE IAGUPOVA FACTOR
Kochubei is one of the natural leaders for Ukraine, along with the likes of Oleksandra Kurasova. But, reigning FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year Alina Iagupova is now also stepping up to the plate and becoming a driving force.
"Alina is a young player, but she is also a real leader too," agreed Kochubei.
"She is very talented, strong and quite simply, a nice girl."
Iagupova was sensational during qualification and is likely to be central to success this summer too, having already put Ukraine on the global women's basketball map with her recent (albeit latterly annulled) drafting to the WNBA.
"She just loves basketball so very much," explained Kochubei.
"I really like to play with her and also for my other team-mates, it's a real pleasure too.
"I am sure she has a great future."
FORGETTING ABOUT FOUR YEARS AGO
It is four years since Ukraine last felt the thrill of Final Round participation, although as far as Kochubei is concerned, the experience of EuroBasket Women 2009 isn't something either she or the team particularly cherish.
They were routed in their opening two games against the Slovak Republic and Spain, but endured more heartache than disappointment when they were then edged out 79-77 in agoniszing fashion by the Czech Republic which left them winless.
Their late collapse, when they gave up 35 points in the last quarter, still swirls around painfully in the mind of Kochubei and her colleagues.
"To be clear, the memories of Latvia are not so pleasant," she confirmed.
"Our last game with the Czech Republic was going well, but what happened in the last five last minutes was a catastrophe.
"That was a difficult moment for me and I still remember it well, even now.
"But, I am now keen to move ahead and I'm ready to play once again at EuroBasket Women."
Ukraine and Kochubei will mark their return to the big stage when they tip off against Turkey in Vannes on Saturday.