05 October, 2016
12 April, 2017
11 Yelena Leuchanka (Yakin Dogu Universitesi) (photo: Ahmet Tokyay)
to read

Leuchanka breathing a sigh of relief after EuroCup Women success

ISTANBUL (EuroCup Women 2017) – When Belarusian legend Yelena Leuchanka was invited to join Yakin Dogu Universitesi midway through the season, she was surprised at just how much of a gamble she told herself it was.

On paper it seemed like a no-brainer and a dream move, with Yakin Dogu Universitesi establishing themselves as the new powerhouse in Turkish women's basketball and gunning for more domestic success.

The prospect of EuroCup Women silverware was also on the agenda, while the club has been making great impressions off the court with the way they are treating their players and building the infrastructure.

Leuchanka even had the added bonus of knowing something about their history which saw Yakin Dogu Universitesi come together with BGD, where she had played previously in helping them get promotion from the second tier of Turkish basketball.

What was there not to love?

"After enjoying another demanding season in the WCBA in China, it was of course great to get the call and to be able to come to Istanbul, but the more I thought about it, the more I was worried that I could only disrupt things," revealed Leuchanka candidly.

"It doesn't matter how much you know about your own ability or how much experience or titles you have won in your career, you have to accept that when you come to a team that has been winning almost all of its games, it is a risk.

"I couldn't help myself wondering what would happen if the team suddenly got a few negative results when I became part of it.

"But, everyone made it easy for me and it has been very enjoyable."

From those initial fears, Leuchanka now finds herself as a EuroCup Women champion, having arguably been the pivotal figure in the memorable comeback win against Bellona Agu during the second leg.

As Yakin Dogu Universitesi recorded an historic first title in the competition, it was very much down to the contribution of the center who racked up a near double-double of 13 points and 9 boards in just 20 minutes of outstandingly efficient court time.

It also came off the back of the club bagging a first-ever Turkish Cup.

So what is next on the agenda for the newly crowned EuroCup Women winner? Well, it should be the FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 Final Round, but Leuchanka is yet to confirm she will be participating.

If she doesn't step out with Belarus, it will leave an unimaginable void, with the towering veteran having been the absolute center-piece of their amazing rise to prominence during the last decade.

Leuchanka did confirm she still has ambitions in the game – including a return to the WNBA.

"I am not quite finished just yet," smiled the 33-year-old.

"I am still looking to play again in the WNBA and of course it is important that I look after myself in the best possible way.

"That is something I have come to appreciate more as I get older and I think people sometimes forget that as the foreigner on my team in China, you get through a lot of work and a lot of minutes in an intense season."

But looking too far into the future isn't an option for Leuchanka right now, since she has pressing business to attend to in Istanbul.

That's because not only are Yakin Dogu Universitesi the new queens of EuroCup Women, if they can now add a KBSL Championship to their resume, they will be the new number one club in Turkey.