EUROBASKET WOMEN 2011
|Russia guard Elena Danilochkina had scored 14.1 points per game going into the Final, on an outlandish 59 per cent from behind the three-point arc |
By Paul Nilsen
When Elena Danilochkina heads back to Russia, don't be surprised if she is afforded the new nickname of golden hand.
Having arrived at EuroBasket Women 2011 as a part of the supporting cast, her incredible shooting and playmaking skills have catapulted her to the position of center stage and in the lead role as her team bids to top the podium.
It's been an incredible rise to prominence for Danilochkina. Not only has she solved the point guard crisis which briefly threatened to derail Russia but she has made playing in major tournaments look easy since debuting last year.
"Yes, I know people say that. I try not to think about it and just do my job. Despite the outward ease, I'm often too excited and always experiencing different emotions. I just try not to show it.
"At the FIBA World Championship Women last year, I was the second point guard after Becky Hammon. Naturally she could not play for 40 minutes and I had to replace her. Therefore I can't say that I had much choice.
"I understand that the position of the point-guard carries great responsibility and was ready for it. This realization helped me play well in the tournament in the Czech Republic.
"This year, the situation was somewhat different. The main point guard was supposed to be Svetlana Abrosimova, and me in my more familiar position of shooting guard. However I was always willing to play point guard too, so I did not take time to adapt."
Perhaps a little more off the radar than some of the more established stars, Danilochkina is astute enough to know her stunning performances will bring her even more attention. Her display in the semi-final was almost flawless and in addition to her devastating shooting, it was her decision making and shot selection which truly stood out.
"I'm ready for the fact that the defenders will play me very hard. In addition, a lot depends on your playing style. In the game with the Czech Republic we played out an early attack with a numerical advantage and in some situations, opponents simply did not have time to understand the defence.
"Because of this, I discover good shooting situations. However it's important I have the ability not only to find a good position for a shot but there is also good movement and interaction with my team-mates.
"I have had more many positive emotions during the tournament with the exception of Round 1 when my health briefly failed. But it is great that I managed to overcome this period and reach the final."
|Danilochkina travelled to Poland for the EuroBasket Women after completing a succesful club season with EuroCup Women semi-finalists BC Chevakata |
Playing for the Russian National Team is only likely to help her improve her game even further, a fact not lost on the guard who also has great respect for what it means to represent her country. Despite her success, she isn't taking anything for granted and is expecting many factors to determine if she can continue her rich vein of form in the future.
"To be in the National team, is, above all, a great responsibility. Playing in international tournaments is very exciting and often I can't sleep. I think of the upcoming games and sometimes I am worried. On the other hand, you learn to control your emotions.
"It is often said that the point guard is the brain of the team. A player performing at this position should have the means to keep cool, to help their team-mates and adjust their actions, if necessary. This increases responsibility.
"Another important detail will be my state of health. This was the main reason that I've been unable to get into the squad previously. There were various competitions during which I had little game time and in those situations, it is always difficult to prove yourself.
"Above anything else, I think trust with the coach plays an important role and I have worked before with Boris Sokolovsky. He immediately made it clear that he trusts me, saying that puts much hope in me.
"For this, I want to say thank you to him because indeed for any player, it is very important to know that a coach believes in you and they don't put you on the bench after the first error.
It's actually been a real roller-coaster for Danilochkina during recent years at club level after CSKA folded and her two seasons with Chevakata were affected by injury.
However now she can look forward to testing her skills in EuroLeague Women next season after securing a summer move to Orenburg.
"The two years I spent with Chevakata gave me great benefit, despite the fact that the first season was ruined.
"After the collapse of CSKA, I had to urgently find a new team and I came to Vologda, a week before the start of the season but this was followed by a back injury and it left an imprint on the remainder of the season.
"The second year turned out to be much more successful. We were a good team, in which young players could have the confidence to showcase their skills.
"I am very glad that I went there but now I want to try my hand in Euroleague Women and Nadezhda will be the club where I hope I can prove myself. I really want to find a fresh impetus and to play on a completely new level."
So was her dazzling 18 point display in the semi-final against Czech Republic her dream performance?
"I really hope not.
"Soon it will be the EuroBasket Women Final and I will try to show my best game there!"