by Dominique Faurie
Many in France are wondering if a woman could be elected President.
Maybe Sandrine Gruda, the 2006 FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year, should be considered.
OK, she is not a politician, but Gruda certainly has showed what hard work coupled together with awesome talent can achieve.
"It’s only happiness," says the smiling and shy Gruda after learning that she was the recipient of the award.
||If I want to play well, I have to train.
"It’s a real pleasure, an honour. I know what I’ve done to get here."
The story of the new queen (beg your pardon, princess), has very few, but wonderful, pages.
Just 16 months ago, Gruda had never played in French league or EuroLeague Women. As an unknown talent, former French national team head coach Lucien Legrand stated that Gruda was "a kind of Boris Diaw."
One thing Gruda has going for her is heritage. Ulysse Gruda (207 cm) suited up for the national team on seven different occassions.
But rather than relying on her family ties, Gruda has made a name for herself with work-ethic.
"She’s a hard worker," said her Valenciennes coach, Laurent Buffard.
|Gruda has become and offensive and rebounding force for USVO.|
"I like that," says Gruda, about her work ethic.
"I love to play well. If I want to play well, I have to train."
Gruda was born in France, but was raised in Martinique, the island that gave Lesdema and Dijon to Les Bleues and also the birthplace of Ronny Turiaf.
At the age of 14, Gruda had to leave the island and her club, the Golden Lions. Encouraged by her father, Sandrine landed in the Federal Center of Toulouse in the south of France.
"My family, my friends, are very important," said Sandrine.
"I missed them a lot. I had troubles to get used to the weather, the food, the fact of being far from home. Perhaps it helped me to grow, and have this mentality. "
Gruda knows what she wants, and what to do to get it.
"Sometimes, she reminds me of Ann Wauters," explains Buffard.
"She arrived very young at the best level and showed very quickly that she could play. She took advantage of every game, every training with Kireta, Tuvic and with the French team too, to improve. What she has accomploshed is fantastic. But she has to remain humble. I think she will. She has a good head on her shoulders and she knows that she has to do more."
Such areas of improvement would be her defensive game as well as getting more aerial trajectory on her shot… But Gruda is like a sponge, keeping everything.
After an amazing season 2005-2006, in which she captured the French MVP and played solidly at the World Championship in Brazil, Gruda went through difficult times in the current EuroLeague Women season with USVO.
The road won’t be easier against Samara in Eighth-Final. But Gruda has time to win tittle, even if she doesn’t feel like waiting. The young girl could also have a planned stop at the WNBA. It could happen very soon…