EuroBasket Women 2011
|Anna De Forge's is a calm force in the Montenegro backcourt, but that doesn't mean she won't fight for every loose ball if she has to |
If you had to single out one aspect of Montenegro's play that has allowed them to reel off six wins in as many tries on their debut at the EuroBasket Women, it's their ability to control the tempo of games.
Their success in Poland isn't a fluke.
Just ask Spain, the bronze-medal winners of 2009, and defending champions France.
Montenegro beat both of them.
Miodrag Baletic, already known as one of the great coaches in the Balkans, has been able to transmit to his players the importance of being in control at all times.
He gives his charges a game plan and they execute it to perfection.
Playing with emotion is acceptable, but becoming too emotional isn't, something the fiery 24-year-old forward Jelena Dubljevic, one of the best players at the EuroBasket Women, has been from time to time.
It's why Baletic has taken her out of games for brief stretches.
Once calm has been restored, she returns to the floor.
One player who never has a problem with keeping cool is point guard Jelena Skerovic, and another is naturalized Montenegrin guard Anna De Forge.
There was talk that the most valuable player in Spanish basketball last season, naturalized Montenegrin Eshaya Murphy, would play for Baletic in Poland but he brought De Forge and now everyone knows why.
The 35-year-old shooting guard hasn't put a foot wrong.
She is calm under pressure and has a knack for hitting big shots, coming up with important rebounds and being a pest on defense.
De Forge ranks fifth at the EuroBasket in steals at 2.4 per game.
|Every single Montenegro player, when asked, refers to point guard Jelena Skerovic as the driving force behind the team's great run at the EuroBasket Women|
Even more telling is that no player sees more time on the court in a game than De Forge.
Her average of 37.8 minutes per contest ranks number one in the tournament.
De Forge spoke to FIBAEurope.com's Jeff Taylor about Montenegro's success in Poland.
FIBAEurope.com: In your wildest dreams, did you ever think Montenegro would go from rank outsiders to a team that has a shot at winning a medal?
De Forge: "I think we believed in ourselves, but we didn't know we'd be undefeated at this point of the tournament, Every game, we gain confidence. We have really good chemistry and are just playing really well right now."
FE: Montenegro have really snuck up on teams. Does this suggest that the national team had a lot of really good players that people simply didn't know about?
DF: "I think they are a small country that people don't really take notice of. I think the players that come out of that country are very talented. (Jelena) Skerovic, (Iva) Perovanovic, (Jelena) Dubljevic, and they have some youth that are going to be really, really good. I guess after this tournament, everyone is going to know about them."
FE: One reason why Montenegro have been so successful has been their ability to dictate the tempo of games.
DF: "I think that starts with our point guard (Jelena Skerovic). She's one of the best and I've played with her before. I think she controls the game really well. Like I said, it comes back to the chemistry, everybody knowing where to be and everybody playing off each other. Also, just playing with heart and playing with energy."
FE: Put this EuroBasket Women into context in terms of your career.
De Forge: "I'm excited about it. I think right now, this is one of the most exciting moments of my career, especially because of what we are doing for Montenegro, representing this country. So far, so good. We're not going to stop fighting."
FE: Now there is the 'O' word that people are going to start talking about. Your team has a shot at playing at the Olympics. Did you ever imagine you'd be this close to making an appearance at the London Games for your native country, the United States, or for any national team?
DF: "That's an honor. It's an experience that only select athletes can have. That would be an honor but right now, we're just focused on this tournament."
How do you get by from a language standpoint in the Montenegro team, especially during timeouts.
DF: "The coach speaks perfect English."
FE: Oh does he?
DF: "No, I'm joking (laughs)."
FE: You're smart and don't need to be told what to do?
De Forge: "No, he speaks to us in Serbian but everyone in the team speaks English so it's okay. There are no problems with it."
FE: The 73-68 win over France in Group F, was that Montenegro making a statement? DF: "It was a measuring stick for us, to see where we were at. We had played well up to that point but also knew that France would be a big test for us. They were a big test, luckily we executed and won. We want to continue to play hard and see what happens."