Updates: 04.10.2021 14:56
Released: 04.10.2021, 14:56
Prague – In order to win the Czech top competition again and fight their way through the elimination fights in the Euroleague after a one-year break, the basketball players of ZVVZ USK Praha entered the new season. They have to do without the long-term support of Kateřina Elhotová, who ended her safety for family reasons, and the Slovenian quarterback Teja Oblaková took over the role of captain. After three wins in the highest competitions, the reigning Czech champion started performing in the Euroleague on Wednesday at the French Montpellier.
“Our team underwent a significant change. From the basic team, which played a lot in the Euroleague, we left Captain Elhotová, who was an icon of USK. She spent the whole time and was the leader. It is definitely our biggest loss,” coach Natália Hejková told a press conference . “Teja was a democratically appointed and the assistant will be Tereza Vyoralová. But I think we would agree, even if we could vote,” the Slovak coach said with a smile.
USK players have to correct a past failure in the Euroleague, when they failed to advance to the quarterfinals of the prestigious competition for the first time since the 2012/13 season. In the year, which was affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and the basic groups played in “bubbles”, they failed in the group with Fenerbahce Istanbul, Lyon and Gdynia. Now the Euroleague is returning to the model of two eight-member groups and a system of matches at home – away. The Prague team will face the reigning champion Ekaterinburg, the defeated finalist Salamanca, Riga, Venice, MBA Moscow, Szekszárd and Montpellier. The four best teams advance to the March quarterfinals.
“We are solving another problem in the opening matches, and that is the absence of American players Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones. Although they remain in our team, they are now experiencing a better season in the WNBA, where they are in the semifinals. If they went on, we would have to play the first three Euroleague matches without them. That would also be a loss, “Hejková added to the Connecticut players. The state of the semifinals with Chicago, which plays for three winning matches, so far 1: 2 to the detriment of the team with players from USK Prague.
Nevertheless, Hejková has clear goals in the Euroleague. “It seems that we are in a lighter group, but I don’t like calculations. We have to be humble and set gradual goals. We want to win every match, get to the playoffs enough and then I’ll see you,” said the coach who works at USK Prague Since 2012.
The competition is conducted with new safety rules. “At the clubs’ meeting in August, they agreed with everyone that they must avoid a bubble match. If a team has a problem with a covid, the fight will be canceled, there will be no compensation and the competition will continue,” compare team general manager Marek Kučera. “We had our entire team vaccinated to make traveling and testing easier. Hopefully we won’t have a problem with that and the team will stay healthy, “Kučera wished.
In addition to Elhotová, Croatian players Marija Režanová and Ivana Dojkičová also left the Czech champion. However, after a year of working abroad and a knee injury, Alena Hanušová returned and her new faces are Dragana Stankovičová from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Slovak representative Barbora Bálintová. The Spaniard María Conde is still on the team. “I believe that Dragana, who is as tall as Režanová, will bring hunger to the team and it will be a springboard for her,” Hejková manages.
The opening Euroleague match will be played by USK Praha on the Montpellier board on Wednesday from 20:00.