|31 January 2014|
|Alexander Vasin is Paul Nilsen's selection for coach of the year to date|
fibeurope.com women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen takes a look back on the tenth week of EuroLeague Women action.
VASIN IS COACH OF THE YEAR SO FAR
After 10 weeks, it's an apt time to consider which head-coach has been most impressive. I just can't look beyond Alexander Vasin at Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje and he's my (very unofficial) EuroLeague Women Coach of the Year so far. Whilst twists and turns lie in wait, he's done an absolutely incredible job with a young team who we must remember lost their first two games. However, the play-caller has got his players producing some great basketball and they extended their winning streak to a magnificent six games with a fabulous win against Galatasaray odeabank.
Sparta&K have a great tradition not only as four-time winners of the competition, but particularly in qualifying prominently for the knockout phase. This looks set to continue under Vasin and I'm sure everyone associated with the club couldn't have dreamed of such a fantastic first-half of the campaign, including some similarly stellar work in the Russian Premier League. There are shades of last season's prominent competition rookie coach Maros Kovacik at Good Angels Kosice. Whilst asking Vasin to take Sparta&K to a semi-final at the EuroLeague Women Final Eight would be tough, I still tip my hat in admiration for his work at this juncture. What a superb appointment.
As for Kovacik by the way, Kosice are into the play-offs after edging past Uni Gyor, but what a stark contrast to last year. The young coach really has his hands full with personnel issues and the lack of form at the Steel Arena. Although I imagine this season's challenges will make him into an even better coach at this level. Also in the running for my award are Roberto Iniguez and Olaf Lange, who only have one defeat between them. I accept they have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal, but they have the pressure of striving for near-perfection at all times to deal with. The other contender is George Dikeoulakos who has rode into Nadezhda Orenburg and turned a desperate record into a winning one with five fantastic victories in a row! I also think Serbian debutante Igor Polenek has done a decent job with UE Sopron taking into account his resources.
RIVAS SHOW A BIG HEART
|Queralt Casas produced her biggest offensive performance in the competition to halt Rivas' losing ways|
I freely admit I feared the worst for Rivas Ecopolis when I heard the devastating news that one of my favourite emerging frontcourt players in Laura Gil had sustained an ACL injury. One which has sadly not only ended her EuroLeague Women season, but has thrown her participation at the FIBA World Championship for Women into serious doubt. Already on a damaging four-game losing skid, I felt the kick in the stomach which fate delivered to Jose Hernandez. When Rivas went down in the game against fellow strugglers Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomeration, it looked like loss number five was almost inevitable. But, the Spanish side showed a gigantic heart and finished with a wonderful effort at both ends of the court to end their losing run. Whilst it was the collective guts of the team which mattered, it was also a perfect time for Queralt Casas to produce a career-high score in the competition and for Frida Eldebrink to show her quality with two big triples inside the last minute to put the game to bed.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
There were three standout results for me this week, namely WBC Novi Zagreb for coming back from a double-digit deficit against CCC Polkowice and holding their nerve during crunch time for only their second win of the season, the remarkable resilience shown by Rivas in beating BLMA, but Sparta&K comprehensively beating Galatasaray odeabank was quite brilliant. The team from Vidnoje just missed out on my gong last week for their excellent win in Prague, but there is no ignoring their efforts this time around and they get a thoroughly deserved thumbs up from me!
The standout number this week was Angel McCoughtry becoming the first player in the competition this season to grab a sensational eight steals in a game - a number which really mattered in a top of the table clash with Wisla Can-Pack.
In the same game, Cappie Pondexter became the first player in Group B to reach double-digits in assists during a single game.
Galatasaray odeabank forward Sancho Lyttle went through the 600 rebounds in the competition landmark during the loss at Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje.
Kayseri Kaski spor shot 31 free-throws against Beretta Famila Schio to join BK Imos Brno with the most visits to the line in a single game this season.
Magdalena Leciejewska produced the best shooting performance of her EuroLeague Women career for CCC Polkowice with eight-of-nine floor shooting en-route to 18 points, but couldn't prevent her team falling to defeat.
You can follow Paul @basketmedia365 for women's basketball tweets.