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World stars prepare for EuroLeague Women tip-off

World stars prepare for EuroLeague Women tip-off
World stars prepare for EuroLeague Women tip-off

With qualification for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women resolved, many of the stars expected to shine in Turkey next year are switching their attention to the start of another EuroLeague Women season.

National team rivalries will be put aside for the next six months as reigning champions UMMC Ekaterinburg tip-off the defense of the title they won on their home court earlier this year.

UMMC have the unmistakable USA trio of Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and last year’s MVP Candace Parker to call upon, although playmaker Bird may again be restricted to only Russian League action.

Parker was exceptional last season, as was French standout Sandrine Gruda, while Spanish playmaker Silvia Dominguez returns having won an unprecedented third successive title with a third different club.

The Russian side have more or less retained their full roster with the exception of Turkish national team center Quanitra Hollingsworth, who has moved to Fenerbahce in a move rumoured to be linked to preparation plans for Turkey 2014.

Fenerbahce reached the Final last season, although a couple of shock early losses in the Turkish League has raised some eyebrows.

Popular Les Bleues center Isabelle Yacoubou will compete for court time with shot-blocking machine Anastasiya Verameyenka. She is one half of the Belarusian twin towers, with the other being veteran Yelena Leuchanka who will suit up for last years’ surprise semi-finalists Good Angels Kosice.

Fenerbahce also have Angel McCoughtry who is likely to be included in the USA team next year, with Turkish quartet Birsel Vardarli, Esmeral Tuncluer, Tugce Canitez and Hollingsworth all looking to nail down a spot once again for the hosts.

Across the Bosphorus, Galatasaray odeabank have a leading Turkish trio in Isil Alben, Bahar Caglar and team leader Nevriye Yilmaz. And, there’s also an influential Spanish contingent, with EuroBasket Women 2013 MVP Sancho Lyttle and Alba Torrens.

Spanish rivals Perfumerias Avenida and Rivas Ecopolis will compete again in EuroLeague Women this season, providing the source for a number of the new generation of Spanish stars who will fight it out to play in Turkey.

Avenida have defensive kingpin Marta Xargay and shooter Leonor Rodriguez, whilst Rivas have the electrifying Queralt Casas, emerging frontcourt star Laura Gil and the strength inside of Laura Nicholls.

Playmaker Cristina Ouvina has kept her place at Wisla Can-Pack in Poland and will be partnered by Erin Phillips, who was left stunned when she was omitted from the Opals team at London 2012. Veteran Aussie wing player Belinda Snell did participate and she will play against her compatriot for rivals CCC Polkowice.

Another Australian looking to make her way back onto the Opals’ roster after missing out last year is center Marianna Tolo. She has signed with Tango Bourges and will be coached by new French national team play-caller Valerie Garnier.

Bourges have also added forward Diandra Tchatchouang who joins the reliable Endene Miyem in the frontcourt, whilst the irrepressible Celine Dumerc will again pull the strings.

Elodie Godin played for France in London last year, but subsequently skipped EuroBasket Women and she may force her way back into the reckoning with a big campaign for Italian side Beretta Famila Schio.

Fellow center Helena Ciak will also be out to impress for Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomeration, as will Gaelle Skrela who can provide firepower from the backcourt.

Serbian forward Sara Krnjic is joined by rising star Dragana Stankovic at UE Sopron after she illuminated the U18 European Championship Women, and veteran guard Milica Dabovic has been handed a route back into EuroLeague Women by WBC Novi Zagreb.

The Czech Republic would love to repeat their run to the Final of the 2010 World Championship for Women and most of their players will step out for ZVVZ USK Prague or BK Imos Brno.

They include Katerina Elhotova, Tereza Peckova, Alena Hanusova and Ilona Burgrova, although there is some doubt about the legendary Eva Viteckova, who didn’t play at EuroBasket Women and also Jana Vesela who is recovering from an ACL injury.

All teams will fight it out to play at the EuroLeague Women Final Eight at the DIVS Arena in Ekaterinburg next April.

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