|17 October 2012|
|The 2012 EuroLeague Women Final Eight ended in disappointment for Isil Alben and Galatasaray, but the club have taken steps to ensure they are again one of the major candidates for the title |
By Paul Nilsen
Last season ultimately ended in disappointment for big-spending Galatasaray, but having tinkered with their approach during the summer, an improved Final Eight display seems inevitable.
There was a general concern last year that they had possibly placed too many eggs in the basket of Diana Taurasi, but this time, there seems to be an altogether more agreeable and balanced look to the roster.
Of course last season also witnessed injury woes, especially with Alba Torrens, and we will never truly know if the Spanish star being sidelined cost Galatasaray their chance of the title or not.
This year, Galatasaray has went down the route of going big - seriously big. Instead of Tina Charles effectively trying to do it all in the frontcourt in a similar fashion to Taurasi in the backcourt, there is the highest-quality rotation around in the four and five spots.
Rather delightfully, Sylvia Fowles is likely to be back in the EuroLeague Women action having played only in the Turkish League last season and that is terrific for neutral fans as well as supporters of Galatasaray.
She will be joined by three of the most talented frontcourt players in women's basketball with Gala having penned deals with the legendary Ann Wauters, her fellow EuroLeague Women champion and highly athletic Sancho Lyttle but perhaps top of the list during a magnificent summer, Galatasaray has also taken the prize jewel of rivals Fenerbahce - Turkey national team leader Nevriye Yilmaz.
|Belgium international Ann Wauters, who was instrumental in Ros Casares' succesful campaign last season, has joined the ranks of Galatasaray |
It's a sensational frontcourt quartet that needs very little in terms of introduction. Whilst Yilmaz is currently injured, you have to say that if and when this team is healthy, they can always be guaranteed an All Star frontcourt to call upon.
Indeed they could even go with a front three if they want to go really big, Lyttle and either Wauters or Yilmaz playing alongside Fowles for example.
It's a delicious prospect and of course they also have the excellent option of Turkish national team forward Bahar Caglar at the three spot too.
What you have to love about Galatasaray this year is that they also have a really nice-looking backcourt too.
Lindsay Whalen is in good form and boosted by winning gold at the Olympic Games, she will be the playmaker when she regains full fitness.
Alongside her will be Torrens - hopefully back and firing on all cylinders. It could be a dynamic pairing if Torrens is able to continue utilising her talent and outstanding athleticism which is an absolute lock to gets fans off their seats during any game.
Seeing her playing again with a smile on her face will be one of the highlights of the early season.
The contribution of the home-grown Turkish players will remain pivotal. Caglar has really began to develop and mature of late, whilst point guard Isil Alben still remains outrageously underrated by many Galatasaray supporters.
She may never consistently offer a huge amount of offensive production but her ability to do the simple things well, such as look after the ball and play defence, is worth its weight in gold for any team who wants a deep roster with reliable players coming off the bench.
On the subject of which, it was fantastic to see former youth national team stand-out Ozge Yavas get handed an opportunity in the EuroLeague Women with Gala and she is definitely someone to also look out for.
|European Women's Player of the Year for 2011 Alba Torrens is back from injury and the Turkish giants expect her to make a difference in the backcourt |
However, now at her fifth club in as many years, it would be good to see her settle somewhere. If Whalen doesn't start the season healthy then Yavaz and Alben could see increased court time.
Arguably the most important Turkish player on the team will be Saziye Ivegin. A veteran unsung hero who gets little credit outside of Istanbul, her experience, tireless work and three-point shooting on the wings will be vital in giving the likes of Torrens a rest and she is an ‘X-Factor' which teams may forget about at their peril.
Yasemen Saylar and Sebnem Kimyacioglu both provide additional back-up but will probably find more court time in domestic competition.
Last but not least, 1993-born Ayse Cora is a particular favourite youth player of mine having impressed at the U20 European Championship Women in Debrecen in the summer, where she helped Turkey to land its first ever youth women's medal.
Galatasaray is one of a handful of teams you can rely on to make a serious tilt at landing the title. They are one of the leading clubs in the very small and select group of teams, just behind UMMC Ekaterinburg, as front-runners.
If they can get healthy then they will be a big danger. But, in a very tough Group C, they must ensure they are fully focused even when slightly short of their ‘A-listers'.
For unlike last year, when they had the host card to play, there is no room at all for being complacent this year.
Just like their arch-rivals across the Bosphorus, they have assembled a team to keep Turkish women's basketball somewhere near the very centre of the EuroLeague Women basketball map.