Sandrine Gruda (FRA), Diana Taurasi (USA) and Silvia Dominguez (ESP)
Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide
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EuroLeague Women ready to roll (Group A preview)

NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) - A week tomorrow, the new EuroLeague Women season will tip-off as 15 teams fight it out to make what will once again be the Final Four after a change back from the recent Final Eight format.

Looking at the teams in Group A, it's all about UMMC Ekaterinburg once again after relinquishing their coveted title when the silverware was ripped from their grasp on their own floor by an Isil Alben- and mainly Alba Torrens-inspired Galatasaray odeabank.

Their response was to sign Torrens, although even before she dumped them out with a spectacular semi-final performance, the Russian juggernaut had apparently already decided to move for the Spanish national team standout, who will be settled with fellow Spaniard Silvia Dominguez.

Head coach Olaf Lange has the usual embarrassment of riches at his disposal including Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker and Sandrine Gruda. The last couple are now being joined by their Los Angeles Sparks' team-mate Kristi Toliver, whose naturalised status with the Slovak Republic has opened another door.

As if seeing Torrens walk into practice and the locker room every day wasn't enough of a reminder of their failure last year and added motivation to re-capture the title, they have been pitched into Group A with Galatasaray.

That means a quick return to Istanbul for Torrens where she is revered - as indeed is Alben, who also made the switch to Russia and will step out for newcomers Dynamo Kursk.

Highly ambitious, the point guard will be tasked with helping the rookies post a strong opening campaign and they could even be dark horses for a Final Four spot with a stacked roster that includes the likes of Serbian ace Jelena Milovanovic, Latvian legend Anete Jekabsone and FIBA World Championship for Women winning duo Seimone Augustus and Nnemkadi Ogwumike.

Importantly, Kursk have also invested in plenty of Russian talent right down their roster, something which is heartening to see. They have firepower and experience in the likes of Evgenia Belyakova, Irina Osipova, Liudmila Sapova, Nadezhda Grishaeva, while teenagers Tatiana Sema and Anna Schetina are two brilliant young frontcourt players.

As for the defending champions, Galatasaray will find it difficult to hold on to their cherished title and have already lost out to Fenerbahce domestically in the President's Cup. But, they still have real quality players and in Sancho Lyttle, a player of bonafide world class. Center Kelsey Bone is getting better all the time and Jelena Dubljevic looks to be a terrific signing after lighting it up in Prague last season.

With four teams advancing into the play-offs and UMMC looking like nailed-on certainties to progress, it certainly promises to be an entertaining fight to be in one of the other three spots.

Galatasaray and Kursk look like they have players who can punch a ticket, but ZVVZ USK Prague will be eyeing up the top four too under the watchful eye of veteran coach Natalia Hejkova. While they have lost Dubljevic, they have replaced her with Sonja Petrovic, who has been phenomenal in the tournament during recent seasons with Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje.

They also welcome Czech national team rising stars Alena Hanusova and Tereza Vyoralova, who link up with a long list of established senior Czech players like Ilona Burgrova, Eva Viteckova, Jana Vesela and Katerina Elhotova - along with Spain point guard Laia Palau.

Wisla Can-Pack will look to  Jantel Lavender to again be their centrepiece, while Sweden standout Farhiya Abdi joins her Sparks' colleague in the paint. WNBA Sixth Player of the Year Allie Quigley will provide the ammunition from the backcourt and wings, while former FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year Ginatre Petronyte adds extra size under the hoop.

Good Angels Kosice have inked a deal with Opals star Erin Phillips and that is a real coup as she will relish helping some great young players such as Barbora Balintova and Zsofia Hruscakova. The same can also be said of two real veterans in Asjha Jones and the returning Zuzana Zirkova.

Finally, Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomeration also have a shot at progressing and especially with the physical presence of new arrivals Mistie Bass and Elodie Godin.

The still emerging Valeriane Ayayi looks to be an interesting signing and especially as she missed out on the FIBA World Championship for Women - unlike Gaelle Skrela and Ingrid Tanqueray. There is also a EuroLeague Women debut for Australian Jenna O'Hea who will no doubt have the match-ups against Kosice and her compatriot Phillips circled boldly in the diary.

Paul Nilsen


FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

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Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

As a women's basketball specialist for FIBA and FIBA Europe, Paul Nilsen eats, sleeps and breathes women’s hoops and is incredibly passionate about promoting the women’s game - especially at youth level. In Women’s Basketball Worldwide, Paul scours the globe for the very latest from his beloved women’s basketball family.