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Why did Fenerbahce fail to make EuroLeague Women Final Four?
NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) – It was not exactly a surprise that Fenerbahce missed out on the EuroLeague Women Final Four for the first time since 2011.
Earlier in the season, I made some encouraging noises about Fenerbahce's young guns and their Turkish head coach Firat Okul – but also warned that it may mean falling short this year. My warnings materialized after they blew a 1-0 series lead against Sopron Basket as their EuroLeague Women campaign finished with a pathetic blowout in the deciding game.
I can only make guesses in some cases as to what has went wrong, but here are some of the reasons they may have failed.
You can never truly understand or assess chemistry as an outsider, but this is a locker room that looked so united at times – as did the balance of the team. Yet in the next game, the players would struggle for consistency and in that last outing in Sopron, it was dreadful. From the body language to the actual technical play, the chemistry looked like it had evaporated. Just so up and down! That lack of consistency hurt them.
What happened to Aerial Powers?
She had to wait so long after her injury to play and she impressed me so much, I put her into my EuroLeague Women Regular Season All-Star roster! But somewhere around the end of the season, she lost her mojo – or perhaps it was taken away from her. Social media had rumors of a fallout with the coaching staff and I have no idea about this, but this was followed by expectations of a departure. It was a real pity because I enjoyed her maiden season very much – despite the disappointing end.
Plum playing under an unfair question mark
Kelsey Plum is going to continue her development into a big-time player. But I thought it was unfair how she was dogged by rumors of her being cut, which I didn't get at all. She was playing reasonably well considering it was her first year as a pro overseas and if she wasn't a spectacular success that some had expected, I think you might find that playmakers take the longest to adjust in EuroLeague Women. The arrival of Giorgia Sottana [a super player in her own right] made no sense to me at all, but then that continued on from the playing Candace Parker at the 3 spot last year which didn't work either.
Lack of an experienced coach
I like Firat Okul. I have followed him since I saw him coaching the Turkey national youth teams. Having a job like Fenerbahce is tough when you are relatively inexperienced – or at least compared to the likes of those play-callers who are going to the Final Four. He will be better for learning from this setback and in time, will get even better. This is a tournament for the experienced coaches – history has proven that.
Ana Dabovic lost some form
She is one of my favorite players and is a game winner on any given night. But, there is no doubt that she didn't shine as bright as I had hoped on her long-anticipated return to the competition after six years away. I was convinced she would erupt in the Quarter-Finals and especially in the decider in Sopron. She didn't.
Where did the Turkish players go?
I was loving the input from the likes of Ayse Cora and Pelin Bilgic earlier in the season as these two are super players who can have a big part to play for club and country. But, their influence was diluted so much. The reason? I have no idea. So disappointing.
No Breanna Stewart deal
It was the biggest rumor of the season in the women's game. Time and time again, we read on social media that the USA star would be heading to Istanbul and could be the missing piece of the jigsaw. Instead, she remained in China until her team exited the WCBA Semi-Finals and by then, it was too late to sign anyway for EuroLeague Women. Many fans seemed to have pinned their hopes on this late season boost.
Finally, I think it is only fair to point out that Fenerbahce, while still without a title to their name, made six Final Four events in a row and that deserves huge respect. As for the future, it might take someone like a Lucas Mondelo [if available and if a vacancy] and his 'Midas Touch' to finally make Fenerbahce's dream come true.
Fenerbahce have some soul searching to do over the summer – but maybe beating Yakin Dogu Universitesi to the Turkish Championship can ease some pain.
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