By Paul Nilsen
|21-year-old Tijana Krivacevic already averaged 12.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in the EuroLeague Women last season, and she will carry an even heavier load this year|
It seems like a lifetime ago since UNIQA-Euroleasing Sopron surprised everyone with their magnificent run to Final Four a couple of seasons ago.
Littered with young and hungry players, it was an exciting time and also of the most engaging aspects of EuroLeague Women in recent memory. It proved non-heavyweights could punch above their weight with success and make history.
This year, the club has another crop of good young players and while a run to the latter stages of the tournament might be asking a little too much, there is plenty to be excited about.
Perhaps this is a case of thinking the glass is half-full rather than half-empty however. Losing quality players such as Angel McCoughtry, Katlin Honti and Zane Tamane for example could hit the club hard.
On the other hand, they do have some excellent young players who can flourish and have made some nice acquisitions including Zsofia Fegyverneky from rivals Pecs 2010 who will add a big scoring threat to the backcourt, operating alongside the returning Diana Furesz.
Fegyverneky has really been on fire during the last couple of summers and poured in the points while on National Team duty. Timea Czank and young gun Fanni Szabo will provide back-up off the bench for the guard spots.
The team has some nice versatility on the wings with Australian Hanna Zavecz who joins from Bulleen Boomers and Oleksandra Kulasova of Ukraine who returns to the club having gained more EuroLeague Women experience with CSKA Moscow and Perfumerias Avenida in recent years.
Both players should be capable of contributing in different aspects of the game although the talented Zavecz needs to arguably pose more of a threat from three-point range.
In the frontcourt, coach Szelkely has some nice options with the trio of Dora Horti, Sara Krnjic and Tijana Krivacevic. So far this season, Krnjic in particular has shown early glimpses of what she is capable of and she could be a big factor.
|17-year-old guard Fanni Szabó looks set to continue the tradition of young players making a name for themselves at Sopron|
With a number of even younger players all waiting in the shadows to follow in the footsteps of those a little older than them, there is no sign of Sopron slowing down when it comes to handing opportunities to young players.
Supporters may not have the excitement of last year when they had a headline act such as Angel McCoughtry to really whet the lips, but with the right chemistry and in a relatively open Group to play in, this team at least has the potential to achieve good things.
In particular because they start with three home games in a row which gives them an extraordinarily good chance to build up some momentum and confidence.
EUROLEAGUE WOMEN 2011: The club finished fourth in Group B with a 4 and 6 record before being knocked out of the competition in the Eighth-Finals by Ros Casares.
THE GAP TO FILL: Zane Tamane in particular could be missed as she was consistent in everything she did and was a real rock under the basket.
STAR CHOICE: Last season Tijana Krivacevic was very much a EuroLeague Women rising star. So, after posting a string of terrific performances and taking into account the departure of Tamane, it looks entirely possible that the excellent 21-year-old could develop into the star of this young Sopron team if she thrives on extra minutes and responsibility.
RISING STAR: Fanni Szabo only recently celebrated her seventeenth birthday and the teenager could be celebrating more if she gets some previous EuroLeague Women court time this season. While it is only likely to be a handful of minutes, the guard looks set to continue the tradition of young players making a name for themselves with Sopron. Szabo has been a stand-out player at U16 and U18 level with the Hungary National Team and is a good prospect.
DID YOU KNOW? The club must play four consecutive games on the road during a tricky looking period across November and December.
THE NILSEN NOTE: To have a successful season, the club will have to improve its defence in comparison to last season and maybe this is part of the reason the team is setting up the way it is. Only three teams gave up more points per game last year.