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My 6 best signings of the European club summer so far
NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) – While transfer rumors continue to fly around like crazy, it's been a relatively quiet start to the off-season in Europe.
Still, among those signings that have been officially confirmed, six Europeans have stood out as the most interesting to me.
Alysha Clark (Lyon)
With all the talk about Lyon being ready to step things up in France and maybe in European competition as well, they need the players who can meet these new expectations. I could barely think of a more exciting option than Clark, who can help take Lyon to a new level. Having a do-it-all player in that vital '3' position will transform them. The Israel national team standout can be the centerpiece at both ends of the court. I thought she was simply exceptional last season with CCC Polkowice and is likely to tear it up in France as well. I can measure how great I think this signing was by my reaction to it when I gasped at the news. I think the various EuroLeague Women juggernauts have seriously missed out and this is a steal for Lyon!
Maria Araujo (Wisla CANPACK)
The MVP of last year’s FIBA U20 Women's European Championship in Matosinhos, the Spanish frontcourt player has now broken through into the senior team. Even if she doesn't quite squeeze onto the roster for the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Tenerife, I am so excited to see Araujo competing against some very good opponents in the Polish League – as well as a debut in European club competition. I not only love her game, but also her attitude and temperament. Plus, if Lucas Mondelo is a big fan, how can we all not be? To also add both her and Maria Conde to the in-situ Leonor Rodriguez looks like a shrewd move. I look forward to watching this Spanish enclave and certainly Wisla have a tradition of success with Spanish playing and coaching staff.
Elin Eldebrink (Perfumerias Avenida)
This might raise an eyebrow from some, but not those who appreciate what Eldebrink brings to the table. Adding a hard-nosed and experienced guard who isn't a massive creator or scorer [compared to the very top tier stars] will not be seen as headline grabbing or a marquee signing by most. However, as soon as I saw this news break, I nodded immediately because Eldebrink is an Avenida player for sure. They pride themselves on being hard to beat, rugged, defensively strong and the Swedish guard will turn that screw even tighter for the Salamanca side. Plus, I really do think Eldebrink is one of the most improved players of that past few years, even if she is approaching veteran status. She knows what it takes to contribute on a deep roster with many options (after playing with Yakin Dogu Universitesi) and I think in terms of smarts and value for money, Avenida have ticked the box in a big way.
Valeriane Ayayi (ZVVZ USK Praha)
The French wing ace is leaving Bourges for the Czech capital and will arrive at her new club off the back of the best season of her entire career. I am a well-documented fan of Ayayi and I distinctly remember last July when I asked whether she was in danger of a plateau. She responded with her most mature and productive campaign to date and her outstanding season in her homeland at Le Prado resulted in well deserved individual accolades and team silverware. Because Prague have no domestic competition, it will be all eyes on her EuroLeague Women performances and she needs another season like 2017-18 to cement her status as a premier player in the competition.
Temi Fagbenle (CCC Polkowice)
Of all the players that have re-signed at the same club, I think CCC Polkowice keeping the Polish League MVP is incredible. I was expecting Temi to perhaps move on and after also losing Clark, that would have been a massive blow. It was a stunning first season in the Polish League and also in EuroLeague Women for the center, who arrived having won the WNBA title with Minnesota. She got better as the season wore on and took CCC to that perhaps unexpected Championship. Now, she will be joined by her Great Britain colleague and veteran Jo Leedham-Warner for 2018-19 and you can put your house on the fact that Fagbenle will be one of the most consistent players in EuroLeague Women.
Roberto Iniguez (Sopron Basket)
When it comes to coaches either moving or being retained, I have to say that I had feared Iniguez might be tempted to leave Sopron, having far exceeded expectations by taking them to that historic first-ever EuroLeague Women Final. Yet, it speaks volumes about the Spaniard [and Sopron as a club] that both parties have agreed to continue their collaboration. I said in the summer of 2017 that it looked a great fit on paper and it has turned out that way. I always get the impression that Iniguez is at his best when he is with a slight underdog trying to punch above their weight and that will continue into 2018-19. I coined the phrase that he was the ‘master EuroLeague Women navigator’ and so what a coup for Sopron to have him at the helm again.
With so many more signings still to be confirmed [and some seriously stellar names if rumors prove to be true], I can’t wait to give an update on my favorite signings during coming months.
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