Team Profile: ESBVA-LM
VILLENEUVE (EuroLeague Women 2017) - We land back in Villeneuve hot on the heels of the SuperCup Women 2016 Final as we check out the prospects of ESBVA-LM for the forthcoming EuroLeague Women 2017 season.
Last season: In EuroLeague Women they finished with a 5-9 Regular Season record after losing their last five games of the campaign. That saw them fall into the latter stages of EuroCup Women and they eventually made the Final. This meant they were able to potentially defend the silverware they famously won in 2015, but were beaten by French rivals Tango Bourges Basket.
Roster: There's so much to celebrate for ESBVA-LM in that they have kept some very good players in situ who have delivered during recent years and have also moved to pull off some real signing coups during the summer. It's more evolution than revolution, but there's no denying the buzz around the place after they landed two of France's Rio Olympians and most exciting talents, in the lightening quick Olivia Epoupa and winger Valeriane Ayayi who won silverware with Montpellier last season.
ESBVA-LM also raised eyebrows but in a positive way, when they swooped for the unique skill-set of the explosive Alina Iagupova who gets the chance to resurrect her EuroLeague Women career after something of a false start last season. The fourth player who looks like being able to make a big impression is Mame Marie Sy Diop, who also joins from reigning champions BLMA and the forward has certainly started this latest chapter of her career in blistering fashion. There is extra strength in Kamila Stepanova who comes in from Toulouse to compete for minutes in the paint, while Marielle Amant keeps her peg in the locker room for a third season and will be important under the basket. There is also some continuity in the backcourt, with the handy passing skills of Virginie Bremont and captain Johanne Gomis to call upon.
Key player: It's the first-ever EuroLeague Women season for Epoupa and it's long overdue because she has already played at the likes of EuroBasket Women 2015 and the Olympics. Destined to be the leader of Les Bleues for many years to come, she is ready to show how she can run a team at the elite level for a long and hard season. On those dark winter nights, you can be guaranteed her electric play will result in her lighting it up in a big way and stuffing the highlights reel with play after play. Villeneuve will feel blessed to have such an exquisite and exciting player who can help them reach a new level - if she plays well and delivers as expected in her rookie season.
'X-Factor': A well-respected head coach like Frederic Dusart has the kind of headache that any play-caller should want - namely how he handles his rotations and minutes with some big name players having dropped onto his new-look roster. He may continue as he has done in recent seasons when it was all about the sum of the collective parts and the strength of numbers. But with standout MVP contenders like Iagupova who can erupt for 30-plus points in any game, it will be absolutely fascinating to see if Dusart can, and indeed will, show the flexibility needed to grant her the extended minutes she craves.
Stat attack: So far, nobody is averaging more than 26 minutes per game in the French League for ESBVA-LM.
Outlook: It looks set-up for an exciting season for ESBVA-LM who have some real star quality and high level players. They also have depth and a strong and organised play-caller in Coach Dusart. With great home supporters who really know their basketball, they have a number of the key ingredients in their hands. Now they must make the recipe for success, which should result in them making a big play for a possible top four spot in their Group and a place in the post-season.