EKATERINBURG (EuroLeague Women) - Russia international Maria Stepanova is settling in nicely at UMMC Ekaterinburg following her move to the club from CSKA Moscow a couple of weeks ago.
A bronze-medal winner this summer at the Olympics, Stepanova has joined one of the most talented teams in all of Europe and she knows that playing time is not guaranteed.
"Here in Ekaterinburg, I need to prove myself," she said in an interview on FIBA Europe's official website.
"I need to earn my playing time and the trust of the coach. I have a name in the basketball world, but he (Laurent Buffard) has his favorite players and his own vision of the game and I need to show him I fit in and can be a leader on his team.
"Any players that have any self-respect should want to have prominent roles on their teams and I am not an exception. I cannot accept sitting on the bench and just getting my paycheck. My ambitions won't allow me to do that. It's better to quit."
Ekaterinburg have won their first six games in the EuroLeague Women.
In her two European games since joining the side, Stepanova has averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots per game.
She will also be the focal point of the Russia team next year when they defend their gold medal at the EuroBasket Women in Latvia.
"We are expected to win any tournament we are participating in, the same as at the Olympics where we had a good shot at the gold," Stepanova said.
"So anything less than the champions' title in Latvia will be a failure.
"Regarding myself - I am the team's captain so obviously I'm going to try to lead Russia to the title. I have to inspire the team, get the girls together in difficult moments."
Russia will take on Lithuania, Serbia and Turkey in Group C next June in Valmiera.