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My 2019 EuroLeague Women Regular Season awards
NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) - Having enjoyed another EuroLeague Women Regular Season, it's time to take hand out some gongs.
All of you reading this can also VOTE via the official awards which is now open, and this is my chance to give you my take on those categories and to throw a few more accolades into the mix. I will probably also be back at a later column with my Team of the Season too.
MVP – Alyssa Thomas (ZVVZ USK Praha)
It has been amazing to see Breanna Stewart make her belated debut in the competition and yet it is another debutante who I personally think is the clear MVP of the Regular Season. Alyssa Thomas has blown me away with her performances. You have to put into context that this is not only a rookie player, but someone who was coming into a ZVVZ USK Praha side that lost all of its top scorers from the 2017-18 season and had Thomas not been so brilliant, might have struggled like Famila Schio (who also had big time roster surgery). The all-action style of Thomas is captivating and her 17.9 points, 52.8% shooting, 10.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3 steals per game is just phenomenal – a no brainer this for me!
Best Young Player – Maria Vadeeva (UMMC)
Props Bouregs duo Iliana Rupert and Alexia Chartereau, but I have to go with Vadeeva who looks like a veteran in every game she plays. She has done so much in the game already that we forget she is still really a baby compared to most of her frontcourt peers. 11.4 points per game at a wonderful 57% and 6 board per outing in just 18 minutes per game. At an efficiency of 16 and with that ice cold and flawless temperament in a frontcourt rotation also boasting Emma Meeseman and Brittney Griner, Vadeeva has been like a machine - again. The Terminator.
Best ‘Golden Oldie’ - Candice Dupree (Sopron)
Yes, the veterans need a shout out too (even if they might not want their age highlighted). Being generous and saying that a veteran is defined by someone either 33 years or older, Candice Dupree stands way ahead of everyone else. She has been superb for Sopron and to be honest, I knew she was a veteran but she has so much energy, skill and influence, I had not realized she will be 35-years-old in August! Great job!
Best Coach – Martins Zibarts (TTT Riga)
I actually found this one by far the most difficult category which is testament to the super job that so many play-callers have done this season. From Victor Lapena and his first year in Orenburg, Roberto Iniguez juggling injuries at Sopron and finishing second, to Natalia Hejkova going 10-4 after having all of her top scorers leave last summer, the defensive prowess of Maros Kovacik and CCC becoming a Top 8 team and of course the Russian giants and their 13-1 records under Lucas Mondelo and Miguel Mendez respectively. But, on balance, I have to just sneak it in the pocket of Coach Zibarts. Namely because his team have surpassed all expectations (see overachievers below), have played with style and this all comes off the back of that demoralizing 0-3 at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018 with Larvia when I am sure he had to do a lot of soul searching during the early trip back home.
Most Exciting Player to Watch – Marine Johannes (Bourges Basket)
I defy anybody to find me a mixtape quite like this – and the WNBA would go up a gear with a player like Johannes in it. Unique. Love her game. No more words needed.
Underachievers – Famila Schio
This is very harsh in some ways, since no other club had to undergo the kind of major in-depth roster surgery that Schio had last summer. I also know that in the end, they did squeeze into the EuroCup Women Quarter-Finals (and may yet win it). But, with an experienced coach like Pierre Vincent and a frontcourt duo like Jantel Lavender and Sandrine Gruda, there is no way they should ever have went 0-7 at the start. I still have trouble even believing it happened. I really thought they would be in the Play-Off mix before the season tipped-off. I think Avenida, Castors Braine and Hatay also dodged a bullet as they could have easily got the nod for this unwanted accolade – albeit for various different reasons.
Overachievers – TTT Riga
Three things. Firstly, the previous (modern day) record of TTT Riga was far from impressive. In fact, it was poor. Secondly, they had not even been playing in the tournament in these past season – instead competing in EuroCup Women. Thirdly, even taking into account that they finished 4th in their Group when they could have took second, I don’t believe a single person would have predicted them having an 8-6 record. So much so, the measure of how much they overachieved is probably immersed in the fact any TTT Riga fan would have ripped your hand off for a 6-8 record! Meanwhile Praha and Nadezhda were in with a real shout of this award when I was going through each team.
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