|Forward Amanda Lassiter brings much-needed experience to a youthful Mondeville team|
By Paul Nilsen
There's little doubt that USO Mondeville could face an uphill struggle to keep their heads above water when the new EuroLeague Women campaign tips-off.
The French club has an excellent infrastructure to play at the elite level and also previous experience in the competition, but it just doesn't look or feel like they have necessarily recruited with the EuroLeague Women in mind.
That is maybe because much of the roster was already lined up before they accepted the invitation to play in the top European competition.
That's not to say they can't, or won't make me eat my words, as they do have some good players, may be solid enough but the draw has done them no favours whatsoever.
With this in mind, the two games against Novi Zagreb represent their best chance of success, although they may be able to make life difficult for opponents on their home floor.
In fact, they will need to do this for sure since their general record on the road both in the EuroLeague Women and also domestically isn't great. They have already lost twice on their travels in the French League this season.
|Point guard Ingrid Tanqueray, at just 24 years of age, is one of the Mondeville players with plenty of EuroLeague Women experience under their belt|
To compound their woes, they will have to do without their best defensive player in the shape of Touty Gandega who unfortunately sustained a serious injury during pre-season and that was a critical blow to their hopes of surprising the doubters and posting some surprise results.
Much has been made of the club's decision to effectively replace her with young Swedish prospect Binta Drammeh (who does have the potential to be a revelation) rather than an experienced EuroLeague Women player.
USO Mondeville again has a general lack of experience and this could be a major barrier to them. After all, remember last season when they were eliminated from EuroCup Women having held a double-digit lead against Botas in the Eighth-Finals?
If all of the above sounds harsh and decidedly negative, then this is at least balanced out by some positives and not least that the team does have the often underrated element of strong continuity, a very capable head coach in Herve Coudray and some exciting young talent.
As one of the youngest teams in the entire competition, USO Mondeville has added veteran forward Amanda Lassiter to the roster and this underlines just how inexperienced the team is, since she will be one of only two players who are older than twenty five this season.
Having tasted WNBA court-time but having never played in the EuroLeague Women, she brings maturity to the table rather than being an experienced hand in this competition. Still, Lassiter is looking forward to the season and believes the team can utilise their intensity on defence to remain competitive.
"I think we are a very talented and athletic team," explained the forward.
"Our expectations for the French league are very high. We think that we have a good team to finish in a good position.
"As far as the EuroLeague Women is concerned, we know we have a good team that will do well because we will just take it one game at a time.
|Center Laetitia Kamba averaged a near double-double in points and rebounds for Mondeville in the EuroCup Women last season|
"We are all very excited to be playing in the EuroLeague Women this season because you always want to play against the best teams whenever possible," continued Lassiter.
"We feel that we are a good team and if we go out onto the court every game and play defence and our style of game, we can compete with any team."
Kristen Sharp is the other veteran player and she returns along with the majority of last season's main rotation which is made up of Ingrid Tanqueray, Laetitia Kamba, Giedre Paugaite, Hhadydia Minte and Naignouma Coulibay.
These are the main core who will be handed the most amount of minutes and they must play well to ensure USO Mondeville give their fans something to cheer about.
Sharp will pull the strings in the backcourt along with Tanqueray who will be a real asset again if she can shoot the ball from downtown as well as she did in EuroCup Women last season.
Coulibay and Kamba will be the main weapons in the paint and if they can hold their own against some tough and quality opponents under the basket, this will be another big plus as their scoring and rebounding presence is priceless.
Undeniably, it's going to be difficult for USO Mondeville and Coudray, last season's Coach of the Year in France, will have to work near miracles to get a handful of wins on the board against such powerful Group C rivals.
The important element for USO Mondeville is that the players use this season as an opportunity to mature, develop their respective games and make themselves (and the club) stronger for the future.
Win or lose, this season will be a great learning curve for all concerned.