|Quanitra Hollingsworth and Fenerbahce have the chance to return to the Final by beating hosts Prague at the EuroLeague Women Final Four|
By Paul Nilsen
When Quanitra Hollingsworth lost her spot in the Turkish national team last summer and missed out on a chance to play at the FIBA World Championship for Women, there was a silver lining in what she admits was a real cloud.
HEALING THE HURT
Having played at the London Olympics, prior to attaining a podium finish at EuroBasket Women 2013, she has admitted that it was a difficult situation to accept at the time - although it has since proven beneficial.
"Missing out on another opportunity to play with the Turkish National Team last summer was disappointing and it hurt," revealed the center.
"But, there is always a blessing behind it all and it gave me time to really focus on my body in terms of remedying both old and newer injuries.
"That allowed me to come into this current season with Fenerbahce fresh and with an entirely new mind-set.
"Fortunately I was also able to witness Turkey play in the FIBA World Championship last year and I was still proud of what they showed - with or without me.
"I will always cherish my time with the Turkish national team, the moments in history we shared and the relationships that I have developed.
"If it is in God's plan, then I hope to be able to put on the jersey once more and represent my adopted country."
Hollingsworth has certainly proved a major point this season in response to the snub.
Not only leading Fenerbahce in terms of shooting with a brilliant 62.5%, she is the only player to have started every single game on the road to Final Four in Prague.
Yet even this has involved her having to swallow her pride and play second fiddle to the likes of Tina Charles.
‘Q' IS FOR TEAM
But if there is one thing Hollingsworth is willing to do, it is put the team squarely first.
She said, "I wouldn't say that it is the most thrilling position to be in, since everyone wants to be 'that player' on the team that everyone looks to on the last possessions.
"But, I have grown to realise that the role is never a challenge when it is necessary for your team's success.
"Since the beginning of my career, I have always aimed for consistency and efficiency in my play.
"I am coming along and it is even more assuring to know that my play is a key part to my club's overall success.
"Whether my role is seen as understated or not, I know that I have a role that my team-mates and coaches see as important and that they respect me for that.
"Especially since I share that same respect for them."
Like a trio of her Fenerbahce team-mates, Hollingsworth is out to make an appearance in her third consecutive EuroLeague Women Final.
Only the American can actually boast a winners' medal in her cabinet.
That is because she played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in 2013, before making the move to Istanbul and then returning to the title game with Fenerbahce last season, to endure that nightmare loss to arch rivals Galatasaray odeabank.
|Quanitra Hollingsworth gives Fenerbahce an impressive inside presence|
The lessons from both of those experiences?
Well, Hollingsworth isn't shy in revealing what can make the difference.
"When I won with UMMC we played as a team," she declared.
"And, it was a team in Galatasaray that beat us last year.
"Of course it is always tough to look back at moments such as that, but it was a lesson learned.
"As much as we went through on and off the court, we still placed ourselves in a position to play in the Finals and potentially win.
"When you get to that stage, it's all or nothing and that is when you have to show up as a team.
"So, if we are to win it this year, we must play as a team and with heart, tenacity and with no excuses!"
One element which could be strongly in Fenerbahce's favour is their reputation for fierce defence - something which current head coach Jacek Winnicki gets great credit for.
"I have never actually taken the time to compare and contrast Coach Winnicki and (former) Coach Iniguez," claimed Hollingsworth.
"However, I think most would state that the most obvious difference would be Coach Winnicki's approach to defence and its importance in the game.
"Both are great coaches in their own regard, so comparing them would require something of a biased opinion.
"Both were also given different tools to work with (or in other words different players) when given the head coaching job and each has used those tools to bring success to the club.
"Let's just hope we can soon say that Coach Winnicki has brought us the first EuroLeague Women title."
NO SAFE BETS AT FINAL FOUR
Despite facing host club ZVVZ USK Prague and their home floor advantage, Fenerbahce are being installed as slight favourites against their Semi-Final opponents.
Although Hollingsworth has rubbished suggestions that each club are happy to be facing each other - rather than either UMMC or Kursk.
"In my opinion, no team is a 'safer' team to play against in the Final Four," insisted the Virginia native.
"This is the time when everyone steps their game up and anything can happen - as we have seen many times in previous years.
"We will prepare ourselves for a fight and we will be coming out looking to jump on them.
"Reacting instead of setting the tone is not what either team is looking to do.
"I know their players quite well and I'm sure they know us.
"So, player focus, overall aggressiveness and coaching will be the things that will determine who wins and who loses."
You can follow ‘Q' @QHollingsworth9