|04 April 2014|
|Sparta&K head coach Alexander Vasin enjoys working with young players like Nika Baric|
By far the youngest team preparing to step out at the Final Eight, Sparta&K head coach Alexander Vasin is hoping his young guns will continue to fire and end an already impressive campaign on a high.
"When I was first offered the head coaching job of Sparta&K, I was intrigued about the youth movement that I was asked to lead," said the play-caller.
"We worked hard throughout the season, we had our bad days and good days, but we played basketball worthy of the Sparta&K name and tradition.
"It was hard work, but it also was fun and I am looking forward to continuing what we started this season."
He continued, "Reaching the Final Eight was something I believed in and was able to get my girls to also believe in.
"Without doubt, finishing the group play with the fourth best record, is something to be proud of.
"The fact that we were the youngest team did not stop us from leading the EuroLeague Women in team defence and rebounding.
"We are going to the Final Eight to play our style of basketball and after that, whatever happens will be welcomed.
"While we clearly consider ourselves to be the underdogs, I trust my players and I know they will do their best.
"After all, the fact that we have reached here is a success by itself and one we are very proud of."
The club's management are also delighted with how things have panned out, with Executive Director, Anna Arkhipova von Kalmanovic adding, "I am very proud and especially since most of our current senior team players are products of our farm system.
"For years we have been working towards growing our own stars and now we are seeing our first results.
"What we achieved this season has given us the strength to continue investing in young players. And rest assured, we will soon see more young players which will impress all of us."
It was a sentiment echoed by Sporting Director, Steve Costalas who said, "This is a season I will always remember with a lot of pride, since this is probably the youngest team to reach the Finals for many years.
"They have also played beautiful basketball which our former owner, Shabtai von Kalmanovic would have enjoyed.
"We are going to Ekaterinburg to have fun, play hard and will be doing our best to prove that we rightfully qualified.
"Of course at least for me, the fact that our girls made many self-proclaimed 'basketball gurus' eat their words, is the cherry on top of a delicious ice cream sundae."
|Sonja Petrovic is the leader of a squad that has an average age of 22.7 years |
Schedule: Galatasaray odeabank (07/04), Kayseri Kaski spor (08/04), Fenerbahce (09/04)
Headline writer: Serbian forward, Sonja Petrovic has been outstanding this season and the driving force, averaging 15.5 points, 7.3 boards and 2.6 assists per game. Always a big talent, she has taken her game up a gear this year and thrived on being a true team leader for this young Vidnoje side - even though she is still only 25-years-old herself. If this was to be her last hurrah with Sparta&K (should the club not qualify for the competition next season), both player and team management would love her to go out with a bang, simply by continuing to write the kind of headlines she has made all season.
‘X-Factor': Anything is possible for this Sparta&K team who have continued to defy the doubters all-season long. They are adept at stopping their opponents from scoring, the only team to have won in Prague, and are great at rebounding. The one significant factor will be whether they can convert at the hoop. Their conversion rate under the basket is the worst in the tournament and in this upper echelon of competition, they will get punished if they miss put-backs or lay-ups - with second chance points likely to be much less. It is a big ask for a relatively inexperienced team to play error-free and perhaps wholly unrealistic. But, if they play with the kind of collective maturity beyond their years which has largely been in evidence through the regular season, they have a great opportunity ahead. Being underdogs probably suits them.
Unsung hero: You could argue that right down the Sparta&K team, there are several unsung heroes. That's because they are the first club in a decade to reach this last phase without a single non-European player on their team, since Pecs in 2001. Taking into account of course the early loss to injury of Asjha Jones. On the subject of which, her replacement Tijana Ajdukovic, has been excellent since she made her debut mid-season.
Number crunching: Sparta&K are the best rebounding team at the Final Eight with 42.3 boards per game and also the best offensive rebounders too with 12.8 each night. They also give up the fewest points with just 57 per game and grab the most steals with 8.7. However, their two-point percentage of 42.3 remains a concern.
In just eight words: Young, fearless, capable of raining on Turkish parade.