Can Nadezhda stay competitive and continue their recent good run?
ORENBURG (EuroLeague Women ) – Russian side Nadezhda have risen to EuroLeague Women prominence in the last few years but after another summer of significant roster churn, will they be able to make it beyond the Regular Season again?
History: This will be the 8th season in a row that Nadezhda have played in the competition, with the Russian side having played at the Final Four for the first time in 2016 when they made the title game but lost to UMMC. Prior to this they played one season in EuroLeague Women during 2008-09, having also played a number of EuroCup Women campaigns since 2005.
Major arrivals: Head coach Maros Kovacik, Emma Cannon, Mariia Cherepanova, Brionna Jones, Ksenia Tikhonenko, Sandra Igueravide, Alexandria Bentley.
Major departures: Natalia Zhedik, Cristina Ouvina, Amanda Zahui, Liudmila Sapova, Tiffany Mitchell, Elena Beglova, Elizabeth Williams.
Players to watch: The arrival of Tikhonenko is fascinating and she comes having been written off and then having bounced back in a huge way at Dynamo Moscow and with the Russian national team.
If another Russian frontcourt player in Zhosselina Maiga can finally breakout and deliver up to her potential, that could be exciting under the hoop and especially because of the homegrown appeal which would delight the fans in Orenburg.
Bentley brings WNBA minutes in the backcourt but didn’t really convince as the naturalized player for Belarus at FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 and so might want to restore her reputation on this side of the Atlantic. She might need to score big for the team to be successful.
Flashback: The fairytale almost happened in 2016 when Nadezhda made their maiden Final Four, then their first Final, but just fell short of an astonishing story when they lost in Istanbul to their domestic rivals Ekaterinburg 72-69 in a thriller.
Outlook: If you change your head coach and your entire starting five, that is what is called truly turning a page. It means that some extra patience may be required and whether Coach Kovacik is given it, should he need it, remains to be seen. Much will depend on chemistry because of the fresh feel, especially since all players look capable and some perhaps have a point to prove.
The steady hand of Ygueravide will be important at point guard and debutante Jones needs to show the quality she offered to Maryland in the NCAA at the other end of the floor, having played limited WNBA minutes recently with Connecticut. Nadezhda are being written off in some quarters, but if expectation is slightly down on the highs of the previous regime, they might just evolve into a dangerous and underrated unit. Physically they can compete, but they simply have to shoot the ball well to continue or even get anywhere near the momentum of the past few seasons.