Six players to watch in the EuroLeague Women Qualifiers
MUNICH (Germany) - With the last two precious tickets to the EuroLeague Women Regular Season up for grabs, which players are likely to be the difference makers for their respective teams in the Qualifiers?
Scheduled for October 28 in Izmit, the Qualifiers bubble will see Aluinvent DVTK Miskolc of Hungary lock horns with Turkish outfit and tournament hosts Izmit Belediyespor, while Spar Girona of Spain will match up with Romanian powerhouse ACS Sepsi. Here's a watchlist of some of the players who could be influential in what promises to be an exciting night of action with a lot on the line.
Sonja Vasic - Spar Girona
This game will mean absolutely everything to Vasic, since she has such a rich and proud history of participation in this competition. To miss out on the Regular Season would be particularly gut-wrenching and you can expect to see the three-time champion doing everything it takes to get her team safely past underdogs ACS Sepsi. Whether the forward puts in a game-winning performance or uses her smarts to play a key cameo if a teammate manages to find the hot hand, she will be so important. And, for the neutrals, a Regular Season without a star like Vasic is just as unthinkable as it no doubt is for the Serbian herself.
Pinelopi Pavlopoulou - ACS Sepsi
The Greek guard knows what it's like to be the underdog in this competition from her time with Olympiacos. She impressed a couple of seasons ago, but having experienced a quieter year in EuroCup Women during 2019-20, she opted to move on and has now landed in Romania. The first campaign outside of her homeland will be challenging, but she has consistently shown her qualities wearing a national team vest in the FIBA Women's EuroBasket Women 2021 Qualifiers. Sepsi will be looking for her to contribute to a possibly game-deciding backcourt battle against Girona. If she plays well, then their chances increase dramatically. So, whether offensively or defensively, it's time for Pavlopoulou to step up and prove she can do it at this level against quality opponents.
Clarissa Dos Santos - Izmit Belediyespor
The Brazilian is such a powerhouse player and it will be her strength, aggression and positive attitude that can really lift her team - especially if they get into any kind of a hole against Miskolc. Dos Santos can set the tone and the forward will lead the line with relish as she looks to get back to the EuroLeague Women Regular Season, having missed part of last year's campaign at Lyon with injuries. Now 32-years-old, her experience will also be vital to what is very much a new-look Izmit side. She has not necessarily been in great form domestically, but if she finds her touch to go alongside her physical capabilities, then Miskolc will find her an absolute handful.
Kristine Vitola - Aluinvent DVTK Miskolc
These are exciting times for Miskolc, with a new arena being built and one that will soon to be completed. However, the immediate priority is parachuting themselves into the Regular Season and it will be Latvian star Vitola who will carry much of the responsibility for this mission on her shoulders. She knows EuroLeague Women from previous stints at Perfumerias Avenida and TTT Riga, as well as drawing on her experience from plenty of big games internationally for her country. Miskolc need her to really make moves at both ends of the floor. As well as cleaning up on the glass, she can be a defensive anchor and is always ready to block a shot. But she has to put points on the board too. While never prolific, her team will be banking on her usual rock solid numbers so they can use it as a foundation for possible success.
Erica Wheeler - Izmit Belediyespor
Not just an 'X-Factor' player, but arguably an 'X-Factor Max' baller, there is never a dull moment when Wheeler is on the floor. She is energetic and always trying to impose herself on the game. Outstanding when leading Nadezhda to their famous 2019 EuroCup Women success, she was less impactful with the Orenburg club in EuroLeague Women last season. Now with a new challenge to grasp, she could hold the key to powering Izmit to history and a first ever Regular Season place. After major roster surgery at the club in this past summer, her role as floor general will take on even more significance since it's likely that team chemistry hasn't been fully cemented yet. Can she show the composure and leadership needed to steer her team through?
Chelsea Gray - Spar Girona
With all eyes likely to be on her Girona colleague Sonja Vasic, there is real scope for Gray to capitalize. Her scoring touch and do-it-all capabilities are massive to the prospects of the Spanish side. Having her quality at the offensive end in particular is massive and she knows how to get it done in EuroLeague Women - as well as in the WNBA where she regularly excels with the Los Angeles Sparks. Gray played for Girona earlier in her career, so is familiar with her surroundings too, A real tough defensive assignment for Sepsi to have to take care of, don't be surprised if the versatile and classy Gray is the deal-breaker in this game.