ISTANBUL (EuroLeague Women) - For the first time in EuroLeague Women history, a team that is 9-0 and hosting the last game of a Qualifying Round group may just be the underdogs.
Fenerbahce, led by coach Laszlo Ratgeber, have reeled off nine wins in as many games in Europe this season but the team, which goes up against UMMC Ekaterinburg on Wednesday night in a battle for Group B supremacy, is not what it once was.
The club terminated USA superstar Diana Taurasi’s contract at the beginning of January following her positive test for the banned substance Modafinil and also, apparently, waved good-bye to Penny Taylor at the weekend.
Taylor was the MVP of the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women.
Fenerbahce have confirmed that Taylor will not be in the line-up on against UMMC yet haven’t made any announcement about her status at the club.
A club source informed Basketball World News, however, that Taylor has left the team.
Taylor shot a league best 55.9% (19 of 34) from three-point range and averaged 19.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists for Fener.
She has also hit a league-best 96.6% (28 of 29) of her free-throws.
The good news for Fener fans is they still have a very talented roster that is loaded with leading players in Turkey’s national side, and also has 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women MVP Hana Horakova of the Czech Republic, Hungary’s Anna Vajda, USA star Angel McCoughtry and, as of this week, Latvian Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, who joined from Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje.
Equally important is that experienced Hungarian coach Laszlo Ratgeber, the man who guided Sparta&K to the EuroLeague Women title in 2009, is at the helm of Fener.
“Two great players (McCoughtry and Jekabsone have arrived) but we need time to put them into our winning system,” Ratgeber said.
“Maybe now UMMC is favorite to win, but our goal is with this big struggle to somehow win this game, to build a new team and to play great basketball again like we did during the season.”
There is a very big game being played in Hungary, meanwhile, between another of Ratgeber’s former clubs, Pecs 2010, and Cras Basket Taranto.
Pecs are 4-5 and needing a victory to assure themselves of first place in the group but should they lose and USO Mondeville win against TTT Riga, the French side would leapfrog them into fourth place and take the last spot on offer in Group A for the play-offs.
Pecs coach Zeljko Djokic wasn’t expected to have his young team this close to a post-season berth but last week’s upset of Good Angels Kosice has them within touching distance of the play-offs.
"In the city of Pecs, the atmosphere has begun to reach a boiling point and the main topic at any place is what will happen Wednesday, and whether or not this young team can beat a very strong team of Taranto and qualify for the Top 16," Djokic said to FIBA.com.
"And for this young team, qualifying for the second round would be as great a success for them as reaching Final Four.”
photo Getty Images
photo Getty images