by Paul Nilsen – special for WSENetwork.com
Never in the history of Women’s basketball has the movement of a player caused so much controversy and cost so much money. Some even believed Diana Taurasi would eventually choose to avoid the gauntlet of hate in Istanbul and not go through with her move from Fenerbahce to bitter rivals Galatasaray.
But, ignoring some pretty unsavory threats from a furious hardcore of Fenerbahce supporters, she made it to Turkey and in typically flamboyant DT fashion, debuted in Euro-League for her new team with an outrageously good performance.
She was sensational as she made a picture perfect seven of seven from downtown to lead her team to victory and catapult herself back into the headlines once again by being crowned MVP of Week 1. While the investment made in her by Gala is of epic proportions, this was a great way to pay the club back with an installment of productivity on the court.
Since then, Taurasi has helped her team achieve a tough win on the road at USK Prague (albeit she was relatively quieter than normal) and then she was back on song again during Week 3 when she helped destroy fellow title favourites UMMC Ekaterinburg 84-65 to leave the likes of Deanna Nolan, Candace Parker and Cappie Pondexter stunned.
In truth, it was actually Tina Charles who did the most damage in that game with an excellent double-double of 24 points and 14 rebounds and she has continued on from where she left off during her rookie season last year which she spent in Russia with Nadezhda.
Those Fenerbahce fans still raging about the return to their city of Taurasi but in the colors of their sworn enemies can at least take some heart that they also enjoy unbeaten status with both Angel McCoughtry and Penny Taylor instrumental in their success to date.
One of the best players so far is Dewanna Bonner. She has been sensational during the early part of the season. Last season she led Rivas Ecopolis to a famous Cup Win and having switched to Perfumerias Avenida of Salamanca, she has already helped them win the Spanish SuperCup (playing against her former team) and during Week 3, poured in a massive 32 points – the highest individual score of the competition so far. Bonner is playing with Allison Feaster-String and they will shortly be joined by Erika DeSouza.
There have been some other noteworthy performances from US players in these early stages with Quanitra Hollingsworth sharing the Week 2 MVP award after a great performance of Seat Gyor of Hungary. Veteran Katie Douglas joined Nadezhda recently alongside Rebekkah Brunson and helped them claim an impressive win on her debut while Aneika Henry may have put herself back on the shopping list of WNBA teams with some huge performances for Lotos Gdynia of Poland although they haven’t been enough to help her team claim a precious first win.
Sancho Lyttle was back on the EuroLeague Women beat after her belated arrival in Valencia at new club Ros Casares and she got the chance to play alongside another new recruit Shay Murphy who has been one of the stand-out performers with terrific production coming off the bench. The Spanish giants already have a great team but with Lauren Jackson and Maya Moore still to arrive, they look deep, deep, deep!
For others, it’s been mixed emotions. Pokey Chatman has lost two of her first three games with former four-time champions Spartak Moscow although there is a certain sense of déjà vu, since she lost a bunch of games early last season and still made it to the Final. A lesson to be learned there for people writing off Pokey and the likes of Candice Dupree, Seimone Augustus and Becky Hammon.
Cheryl Ford and Janel McCarville are a vastly experienced frontcourt pairing now working together in Schio but the Italian club has lost two of its first three games and is now under pressure. While USK Prague find themselves in a similar position, Delisha Milton Jones is still going strong but an injury to Lindsay Whalen is stopping them from going into overdrive.
Finally one of the most interesting teams to watch has been Good Angels Kosice of Slovakia who few people fancied before the big tip-off. But, led by Danielle McCray, they are sat with two wins from three games and it’s been interesting watching not only McCray but two recent graduates in the form of Kayla Pederson and Icelandic shooter Helena Sverrisdottir who are both still very much finding their feet so watch this space!
Paul Nilsen is a freelance journalist based in Europe on behalf of basketmedia365. Paul covers EuroLeague Women for the official tournament site at www.fibaeurope.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or using Paul-Nilsen on Skype.
Paul now also writes a weekly column at FIBA.com called Women’s Basketball Worldwide.