|Nadezhda have retained the services of EuroBasket Women 2011 MVP Elena Danilochkina, a reliable threat from the perimeter|
By Paul Nilsen
There's a real chance of a Russian-centric EuroLeague Women this year and not only due to the presence of UMMC Ekaterinburg and Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje, but because Nadezhda Orenburg also looks a dangerous and exciting unit.
Perhaps the key for a talented Nadezhda team this year will be to play the entire season with the specific mind-set of truly believing they are not only a Final Eight team, but also one that can make a serious amount of noise if they do participate in the climax of the season.
They look to have a roster with this kind of potential but of course, with several new players to integrate, they must gel quickly and can't afford the same kind of sloppy start which proved costly last season, when they missed out on home advantage in the play-offs.
The reality of course is that even if they do post a strong campaign, Nadezhda will probably still be third in line (at least in the short term) when it comes to the trio of Russian clubs.
It's a sentiment shared by one of the newest residents of Orenburg, Iva Perovanovic.
"Yes, I think Ekaterinburg are the best team in the EuroLeague Women this year," agreed the Montenegrin national team star.
She remains however hugely optimistic when it comes to the prospects of her own club.
"Our own specific goal for this season is to be in the first eight teams and therefore to play at the Final Eight.
|Center Iva Perovanovic has joined from CCC Polkowice and her style of play marks a change for Nadezhda and their new-look frontcourt|
"This is one of the best teams I have played with during my career and it's also a new experience for me to play in Russia of course.
"I think that we have a good group for the first round, and I really hope that we will be one in the top three teams in our group."
Perovanovic will of course offer a complete contrast inside to the now departed Rebekkah Brunson, perhaps relying on her mobility and flexibility to do more away from the immediate low-post area.
Both are experienced and dynamic players who can take over games and are likely to provide the main thrust on offence.
Montgomery brings her impressive guard skills to the table, whilst Bonner will handle the ball on the wings and look to slice and drive to the hoop on a regular basis.
Interestingly, it may be how the hugely talented Bonner picks her moments which could have a significant bearing on the success, or otherwise, of this re-shaped Nadezhda team.
Bonner is great fun to watch and regularly posts some special performances, but she has generally been the dominant player on previous teams and it will be fascinating to see if this changes, since Nadezhda aren't hugely stacked, but are still pretty deep.
Tamane should be a reliable presence and especially if she shows the kind of level she did in Istanbul.
Meanwhile Kelli Miller returns to Russia again and her experience will be absolutely vital in the backcourt, probably coming off the bench, although the team actually looks well served in the guard spots.
|Dewanna Bonner, the second-leading scorer in the EuroLeague Women last season, will provide Nadezhda with enormous firepower|
Danilochkina didn't really catch fire the way everybody hoped after being crowned EuroBasket Women MVP in 2011 but is nevertheless a danger with the ball in her hands, especially from three-point range.
Zhedik is someone who had a steady first season in the competition last year and will be looking to now impose herself a little more when she has the chance.
For Katerina Keyru who joins from Chevakata, it will be a rookie season at the elite level having played only in the EuroCup Women during a career which has seen her flirt with the Russian national team but not quite do enough to make the cut under Boris Sokolovskiy.
So, if as expected he is replaced, then Keyru could have the perfect stage to prove she may be an option for the national team in the future.
Liudmila Sapova had her season ruined by a serious injury last time out, but she will be welcomed back on the wings and the small forward is capable of playing the kind of supporting cameos which could be vital in tight games.
Her energy and ability to contribute in so many different facets of the game will be important.
There is also a glut of young players preparing to find varying degrees of court time and top of that particular list is Alexandra Tarasova who will be a potential back-up to the likes of Tamane.
The talent is definitely present in Orenburg and Nadezhda has been given the added bonus of a first round group which they could either top or certainly look to finish in second or third spot.
This would go a long way to helping them achieve their aim of a first-ever Final Eight appearance and if they do make it, then they will be a team which will have a real shot at causing some surprises.