|05 October 2012|
|With Lucas Mondelo (left) chosing to try his luck in China his former assistant Alberto Miranda has taken over the reins at the Salamanca club |
By Paul Nilsen
It seems like an eternity since the stunning EuroLeague Women success of Perfumerias Avenida, a couple of years ago.
Set against the backdrop of the financial challenges most clubs around Europe and not least in Spain are facing, Avenida has had to cut their cloth accordingly which seemingly contributed to the departure of head coach Lucas Mondelo and a string of star names.
But, the beauty of the Salamanca club is that despite losing some key personnel, they have managed to once again put out on the floor an interesting and potentially exciting team that could possibly challenge for a place at the Final Eight and certainly deliver some domestic success in Liga Femenina (Spanish league).
Last year, Perfumerias Avenida failed to give themselves a chance of defending their title in Istanbul, at the historic first-ever Final Eight. This was a real shame for them and most neutrals, although certainly not for Schio who beat them in a truly absorbing play-off series.
This year, their ambitions will of course be to make amends, although new head coach Alberto Miranda is impressively candid and realistic in his assessment of where expectations for the upcoming season lie - especially since they are pitched into a difficult first round Group.
"I would like to say that we aspire to win the EuroLeague Women again, but there are clubs in Turkey, Russia and Poland with a bigger economical power and it will be very difficult to be at their level," Miranda admitted.
"However, this is sport and we have a great roster and of course, we'll try to go as far as possible.
"Definitely, group C is the most difficult this season. There are two big teams above the rest in UMMC Ekaterimburg and Galatasaray.
"The others must compete to ensure they have more victories than defeats and have a good ranking at the end of the first round.
"With the exception of these ‘giant' teams, USK Prague has a good roster and if they are competitive, it will be very dangerous.
"CCC Polkowice has signed the best rookie from the WNBA and are surrounded by great outside players. Finally, Novi Zagreb and Mondeville may have shorter rosters, but they can compete as well.
|Avenida have retained the services of talented all-round guard Marta Xargay and expect her to assume a leading role this season|
"In summary, it will be a very interesting group with fantastic games," insisted Miranda.
Home advantage will, as usual, be hugely important for Avenida who are backed by some of the best fans around.
And, whatever their results are this season, Miranda is vowing to continue playing the game the ‘Salamanca way' and that is sure to delight the faithful at the Pabellon Wurzburg.
"Our playing rhythm is very high, we are motivated by a great atmosphere in Salamanca and we will try to play like a team" Miranda explained.
"We have a well-defined style of basketball. We want a very good strong defence and running game.
"The DNA of Avenida means quick in transition, plenty of fast-breaks and playing an attractive style of basketball.
"I feel we have a balanced roster, with very good shooters, fast players and a good inside game."
FAMILIAR FACES ON THE ROSTER
One thing Perfumerias Avenida definitely won't lack is experience this season since the wonderful veteran duo of Laura Antoja and Isabel Sanchez is back on the roster.
The value of these two players may not always be recognised outside of the city but they will be critical in helping with the transition of some new faces.
Headlining the new arrivals is undoubtedly Nicole Powell who comes via Wisla Can-Pack, where she underlined her status as one of the best inside-outside players in the EuroLeague Women.
It's a good bet she will be a marquee player once again because of her scoring power and ability to win games for teams at this level.
Jessica Adair brings plenty of strength in the paint having previously played in Turkey where she racked up big numbers and she will be the one to perhaps take over the contribution of Erika De Souza, who sadly won't be playing in the competition this year after returning to her native Brazil.
|Veteran guard Isabel Sanchez, who was an assistant to coach Mondelo at last summer's EuroBasket Women Qualification Round, returns for a sixth season at Avenida|
Lithuanian national team player Egle Sulciute has been playing EuroLeague Women basketball on and off since she was a teenager.
Having made her debut a decade ago, she knows what it takes in this competition. She's a forward that loves to step outside and pose a perimeter threat. And, maybe it could be the consistency of her outside game which could actually have a significant bearing on the success of Avenida this season.
There is also little doubt that Perfumerias Avenida has done some great business with the acquisition of emerging Croatian center Marija Vrsaljko who can take her game to the next level after doing so well in the competition previously with Gospic and also making significant strides with the national team after missing EuroBasket Women 2011 with an injury.
Also in the frontcourt is Spanish centre Lucila Pascua who remains on the roster and despite not having posted huge numbers last year, she showed how valuable she is to any team, by playing for Spain during the EuroBasket Women 2013 Qualification Round.
In fact, Avenida can boast a quartet of players who recently contributed to the national team with Marta Xargay, Marta Fernandez and Maria Pina also having been involved.
To hold on to Xargay in particular is a big plus for the club since the 21-year-old guard is one of the best young players in the EuroLeague Women and looks set to continue maturing into a terrific player.
She will be stronger with another season behind her and will set the tempo at both ends of the floor with her fiery approach to the game.
Similarly it was absolutely essential to keep Fernandez on board whose versatility and experience will be invaluable this season.
She will provide the points, assists and steals to win games with her vibrant all-action approach.
The addition of Maria Pina from Zaragoza adds further depth since she will provide valuable back-up, most probably off the bench.
Yes, Perfumerias Avenida have been thrown into a tough group and they don't quite have the same level of resources as in previous years.
They also have a rookie EuroLeague Women coach, but of course that was no problem for other Spanish play-callers such as Lucas Mondelo, Javier Fort and Miguel Martinez Mendez who all excelled during their respective debut seasons.
For sure, Avenida will have to play well and also get a bit of luck along the way, but supporters in Salamanca can head into this EuroLeague Women campaign with real hope - even if it isn't accompanied by quite the same level of expectation as in the last few seasons.