Team Profile: Uniqa Sopron
SOPRON (EuroLeague Women 2017) - We check in with the reigning Hungarian Champions as Uniqa Sopron get ready to roll in EuroLeague Women 2017.
Last season: After a rare move into EuroCup Women for 2014-15, it proved to be a tough initiation back into EuroLeague Women for Sopron as they battled to put wins on the board last year. They only managed a solitary Regular Season victory, which highlighted the difficulties they had, although the club did deliver some success domestically.
Roster: Many of those who endured that tough 2015-16 season, are back and perhaps better for the experience in terms of their learnings for what now lies in wait. Leading those returnees is Aleksandra Crvendakic, one of the biggest burgeoning talents in the women’s game.
Her impressive individual performances led to her being handed an Olympic debut with Serbia and standing on the third podium step in Rio alongside her club colleague Sara Krnjic, who is back again. Lining up in the paint is Hungary national team center Bernadette Hatar, who can be a real handful due to her two metre plus frame. The backcourt sees the exceptional young domestic talents Virag Wenninger and Debora Dubei continue their development and they have a great teacher in the super veteran combo guard Zsofia Fegyverneky. New to the roster are three high-level performers in Opals’ forward Cayla George who will bring much needed scoring and rebounding qualities. There’s also the possibility of guard Yvonne Turner becoming a reference player if her contributions for underdogs Wisla Can-Pack last season are anything to go by, while Sweden national team wing Binta Drammeh erupted in Hungarian basketball last year with a brilliant 19 points per game for PINKK Pesci 424.
Key player: Turner is possibly going to be a go-to option as she was with Wisla and she needs to connect with a good percentage of her shots because unlike in Krakow, there are arguably more offensive options at her disposal this time around. It probably can't be high volume and it could be her creative skills as well as her scoring and defence, that will need to be even more prevalent with her new club.
'X-Factor': Crvendakic was superb last year and the silver lining in a Sopron cloud. That silver was followed up by bronze in Rio, but she needs to show how much of a smart player she is by recognising how her role and minutes might change with Sopron having a more stacked and talented roster. She can make that transformation from teenage sensation to senior player before her years, by fulfilling the role the team needs and in any circumstances, will always be one of the key cogs in the wheel.
Stat attack: The 1-13 record posted last season was Sopron’s highest number of losses in any of their EuroLeague Women campaigns.
Outlook: Last year's re-integration to the top flight was difficult to stomach. While it was half-expected because of the number of young players and a lack of depth compared to many of their rivals, nobody likes to lose 13 of 14 games. So, for those very passionate fans in the city who have enjoyed many memorable nights down the years, it’s important that Sopron get back to being more competitive again and they look like that will be a distinct possibility. The fact they have three Rio Olympians alone, is a sign of better things to come and there is likely to be a quiet confidence that they can make life difficult for many of the teams in their Group.