fibaeurope.com's women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen takes a look back at the penultimate week of regular season action in EuroLeague Women - Europe's premier women's club competition.
|Could Anete Jekabsone be set for a return to national team duties?|
JEKABSONE U-TURN IS A MUST
Sat at the Final Eight in Ekaterinburg in March 2013, Anete Jekabsone explained to me that she had no intention of returning to national team duties and had effectively retired from representing her nation with the distinction.
Having already missed EuroBasket Women 2011 and working hard to fully recover from some serious injury issues, it seemed a logical and inevitable decision, not least because she had last worn the vest on home soil way back in the Final Round in 2009.
However, it's been a long time since on the surface at least, Jekabsone has looked in such good shape, form and most importantly of all, playing with a smile again.
This bonafide Latvian basketball legend is enjoying a beautiful renaissance and it is one which could play a decisive role in taking Dynamo Kursk all the way to the Final Four and maybe even the title itself (hold that thought by the way).
Surely it must now also add weight to a campaign to persuade Jekabsone to make a U-turn and come back to the national team locker room for EuroBasket Women 2015.
Her class, experience and three-point threat could transform the prospects of Latvia.
Apparently hopes are high that she might do exactly that. I hope so, because with a quality coach like Ainars Zvirgzdins who has been pulling up trees with Castors Braine for the past couple of seasons, and many younger players who would benefit from playing alongside Jekabsone, it could be an exciting fusion if she says yes.
Most importantly of all, you get the sense that for it to work, it needs to be on Jekabsone's terms. Persuaded in the past meant her having an arm twisted as she wrestled with injuries and so forth, but this time around, she could be the one that is genuinely allured by the prospect of being involved on the international stage.
You are a long time out of the game when you hang up your playing shoes and if her body and mind feel good, I would hope she will go for it.
Not only for Latvian fans, but because it would give every women's basketball fan a real thrill to see her treading the boards at a major tournament again.
QUALITY OF KURSK CAPTURES THE IMAGINATION
|Head Coach Gundars Vetra has turned Dynamo Kursk into a potential EuroLeague Women champion side|
The numbers, the record and the situation which Dynamo Kursk find themselves in with one week of the regular season remaining is genuinely amazing and all credit to Gundars Vetra.
The club did a brilliant job of assembling a quality roster, but those egos and top level players all need to be managed carefully and so far at least, the play-caller has done a terrific job.
It has been a wonderful debut season and their impact on the competition can be measured by the fact that they will entertain UMMC Ekaterinburg next week with an opportunity to finish top of Group A.
That is astonishing in so many ways, because while I would suggest to everyone that they would do well, their record has surpassed all expectations.
What is extra special about the wins they have racked up is that they have done it by playing attractive and expansive basketball, shooting the basketball freely and they have such a nice tempo about them. They have also shown they can win tight games and it is that point specifically, which has captured my imagination.
I am not sure we are now looking at a team who are merely having a standout maiden season. I think we are looking at a new EuroLeague Women powerhouse and one that is capable of winning the title, because the defence you need to play to stop Kursk with that much firepower in their armoury is huge.
ZELLOUS FACTOR ADDS MORE THIRST FOR ISTANBUL DERBY
|Shavonte Zellous made an immediate impact for Fenerbahce|
With Angel McCoughtry seemingly out of favour and absent from the Fenerbahce locker room after allegedly not heading back with the team from their previous outing at Bourges, Fenerbahce wasted little time in drafting in re-enforcements with the acquisition of Shavonte Zellous.
When any player moves from Galatasaray odeabank to Fenerbahce and vice-versa, it is always controversial. When that player won the EuroLeague Women title with her former club and was supposed to return to the Abdi Piekci Arena for 2014-15, only to end up in a wrangle and then proceed to sign for the arch enemy, makes the possibility of a match-up in the play-offs even more explosive.
Zellous immediately stated her value with the clutch plays to help Fenerbahce grind out another home win as they scraped past Schio.
I think she improves Fenerbahce and whatever has happened with McCoughtry could be a blessing. While the absent wing star is a phenomenal contributor, I feel that the lack of firepower in the two spot was always the Achilles heel and now that has been addressed.
Fenerbahce set the season record so far for rebounds, by pulling down 54 of them in the game against Schio.
UMMC Ekaterinburg produced the second best wo-point shooting display of the campaign with 61.5% inside the three-point line against Good Angels Kosice.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
A quick congratulations to Tango Bourges for punching their ticket in such emphatic fashion and also to Wisla Can-Pack for their success against Montpellier which keeps them alive and kicking for sure. But the award this week goes to George Dikeoulakos and his Nadezhda players for their triumph in Kayseri. I had this one as a coin toss or maybe just slightly being in favour of Agu Spor Kulubu due to home advantage, yet Nadezhda pulled out a fabulous 71-64 success. DeWanna Bonner did the business in crunch time, but it was nice to see a couple of domestic players in Natalia Vieru and Elena Kirillova have such a positive and pivotal impact on the win.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Now we must think about the last game in Istanbul, knowing how hard it will be," said Wisla Can-Pack head coach, Stefan Svitek after the win at home to Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomeration.
While indeed true from one perspective, you could also argue that the pressure will be firmly on Galatasaray odeabank in every way imaginable and that could give Wisla more freedom to go for it and be bold in their game-plan. It certainly promises to be a thrilling last week of action.