By Paul Nilsen
When Spain were crowned EuroBasket Women 2013 champions, there was one player who generally evaded the headlines, but whose sublime defensive capabilities underpinned their gold medal success.
|Marta Xargay played an integral role in Spain's golden EuroBasket Women campaign |
Make no mistake, Perfumerias Avenida guard Marta Xargay was quite simply a phenomenal defensive presence in France and came of age at the very highest level.
But, because of headline grabbing MVP Sancho Lyttle, electrifying Alba Torrens and golden retirements of Elisa Aguilar and the legendary Amaya Valdemoro, there was little space left in the mainstream media to give deserved recognition to the outstanding work of the 22-year-old.
Unassuming and unflappable, don't be fooled by the calm persona of Xargay, for she is hard as nails on the floor and allows her defence do the talking - even if she is no slouch at the offensive end either.
"I like to play defence, it's something which comes more naturally than other aspects in my game," mused Xargay.
"Of course I also love to score and pass, but defence can also be very fulfilling.
"It was an incredible experience at EuroBasket Women, we knew we could have some opportunities to win, but from the past experience we took one game at a time.
"It was a dream come true and I was personally shocked about how well everything went," added the Girona native.
Of course EuroBasket Women was yet another podium topping success for Xargay working with head coach Lucas Mondelo.
It is a relationship stretching back many years and one that has never been anything other than hugely fruitful, with gold medals for the Spanish youth teams and a stunning EuroLeague Women title in 2011.
"I have been one of his players for many years now, with the youth teams, with Salamanca and now with the senior team," reflected Xargay.
"Luckily we have been having some success together and it's not finished yet."
SCHIO MOMENT STILL HURTS
Not that it has always been roses in the garden.
Defending their title in 2012, Avenida were dramatically dumped out of the competition by Famila Schio and the champions missed out on the historic first ever EuroLeague Women Final Eight in Istanbul.
In a tight game in Italy, Xargay was called for a huge offensive foul in the dying seconds and the subsequent turnover proved decisive - something which even now has not been completely forgotten.
"That was a hard moment for me," recalled Xargay.
"It still sometimes comes into my head, but it's not something that kills me.
"It has been a long time and we learn more from our mistakes, but after two years being up and down in EuroLeague Women, the team needs to come back to the elite group."
|Xargay is entering her fifth EuroLeague Women season with Perfumerias Avenida|
THE SEASON AHEAD
This season will see Xargay continue in Salamanca and working once again with Victor Lapena, who joined Avenida mid-season last year and was an assistant with the Spanish senior team in France, before also winning gold at the U18 European Championship Women.
"He is a very passionate coach, he loves the games and he is very contagious," said Xargay of her locker-room boss.
"He also loves to work with the young players and that will be great for our team this year.
"He will do everything to place us in the best position for success.
"We have a very young team, but also competitive and hungry.
"Our goal is to be in the Final Eight.
"We have missed the tournament two years in a row and we need to restore Perfumerias Avenida within the best teams in Europe again.
"I have confidence that we can make it and personally, I want to improve my consistency and be the leader for the team."
Just don't expect Xargay to be shouting as well as balling. She is suited to her own way of leading, which focuses on doing things by example, letting her basketball do all the talking and enjoying other ventures off the court.
"I love basketball, but I'm not a 24/7 type," she admitted.
"I love clothes and modelling. I have even started my own brand of handmade shirts at www.unaunica.com which means 'one only', since every shirt is unique.
"I'm also studying and yes, I'm kind of a quiet person - well at least sometimes," she concluded with an accompanying laugh.
Xargay and Perfumerias Avenida are in Group C of EuroLeague Women and will face Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje, CCC Polkowice, WBC Novi Zagreb, Galatasaray Odeabank, ZVVZ USK Prague and Kibirkstis-VICI.