|Ann Wauters: "I think this semi-final will be more about us and not them" |
EuroLeague Women legend Ann Wauters endured a miserable time at the Final Eight with Galatasaray odeabank in 2013, but is now preparing to take down her former club in this year's semi-finals.
In a major turnaround of fortune for both parties, Wauters switched to defending champions UMMC Ekaterinburg last summer, while Galatasaray have exceeded all expectations by even reaching the last four according to their head coach Ekrem Memnun.
Rewind 12 months ago and the contrast could not be starker. Galatasaray failed to win a game and adding an injury to insult, the misery of Wauters was complete when she suffered a nasty facial wound.
Now the Belgian is ready to give UMMC play-caller Olaf Lange the inside track on her ex-employers as the holders continue the defence of their cherished trophy.
"It will be interesting, because last year wasn't so great for me or for Galatasaray and I will be ready to provide some information in order to help us prepare for this hugely important game," said Wauters.
"We have a great coaching staff and they will have already done much of the work.
"Besides, I think this semi-final will be more about us and not them.
"We didn't come out as hard as we needed to in our last game against ZVVZ USK Prague and it showed, because we weren't there mentally like during the first two days.
"It actually might have been a good thing to have happened though, because it reminded us that without our best possible focus, we are a team like any other and might be vulnerable."
One of the greats of women's basketball in Europe during the modern era, Wauters is synonymous with the competition and an all-time leader in the tournament.
But, don't expect the appetite of the 33-year-old to deliver success to have dwindled over the years.
She insisted, "There have been a lot of Final Fours and Final Eights for me, but they are always special and as you get towards the end of your career, you appreciate it even more.
"You work all season as a team for tournaments and moments like this and if there's one thing I have learned after losing a couple, is that you have to really grab your opportunity.
"When I look back after I eventually retire from the game, it would be nice if people didn't talk only about individual numbers, but about me having won medals and championships too."
|Alba Torrens considers her team to be in an underdog role against UMMC|
A former team-mate of Wauters, it could be time for Alba Torrens to produce a big statement and deliver the kind of performance which her status within the women's game demands.
"They are the favourites and it will be very difficult, but it is not impossible," said the Spanish wing.
"We have had good moments in this tournament so far and other moments which have not been so good.
"When you play for a big club like Galatasaray there is always a big pressure to win and maybe for this time only, there is a little less pressure for us.
"Still, we have big responsibilities and good players, so we will be ready to take this game very seriously."
Key match-up: Shavonte Zellous is a dangerous scoring machine for Galatasaray and she will probably go up against Diana Taurasi, who is looking somewhere near her sublime best. Both shooting aces could be the main sources of offensive production for each of their teams.
‘X-Factors': Galatasaray must slow UMMC down and somehow disrupt the sets and swift ball movement of the favourites. Crucially, they must compete from the outset and have a steady first five minutes, a solid opening quarter and just try to stay in the game for as long as possible. After starting slowly against Prague, it is likely UMMC will have put a powerful opening near the top of their wish-list and Galatasaray must therefore weather the storm. After this, Sancho Lyttle, Torrens, Nevriye Yilmaz, Isil Alben, Kelsey Bone and Zellous probably all need to bring their ‘A game' - or at the very least, four or five of them will need to.