The stellar talented Maya Moore has only played for a handful of months in European basketball and yet is excitedly preparing to participate in her first EuroLeague Women final with tournament favourites Ros Casares.
However, while her team has an excellent record this season against their Spanish rivals Rivas Ecopolis, Moore has warned her team-mates they must pay close attention to her fellow American and Rivas hot-hand Asjha Jones if they want to be successful.
She said, "I'm just kind of getting started over here in the European game, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how important EuroLeague Women Final Eight is.
"And, especially for a club like Ros Casares that takes a lot of pride in who they are and in winning games. I'm excited to be a part of this team.
"Rivas has been playing very well" added Moore.
"We've played them several times and they're a tough match-up. They can lock people down defensively, they've got some offensive weapons.
"And of course Asjha Jones is playing very well right now - phenomenally well."
Season So Far
• Ros Casares finished top of Group A with a 12-2 record which included changing their coach midway through Round 1. They comfortably overcame CCC Polkowice in the play-offs to book their spot at Final Eight. Since arriving in Istanbul they have beaten Russian heavyweights UMMC Ekaterinburg (62-49) and Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje (77-66) while also thrashing Wisla Can Pack (90-61). They made history by becoming the first Spanish team to remain unbeaten during the regular season since Liga Femenina was restructured although that feat was perhaps overshadowed when they were beaten by arch rivals Pefumerias Avenida in the Copa Del Rey.
• Rivas Ecopolis finished fourth in Group C with an 8-6 record and had to really work hard to escape from a nerve jangling and intense play-off series during Round 2 with Bourges to make it to Istanbul. They have however been sensational and like Rosthey remain undewfeated having disposed of both Turkish clubs Galatasaray MP (75-68), Fenerbahce(74-70) and also Beretta-Famila Schio (65-58). Domestically it's been difficult and they finished the regular season in fourth spot behind Ros, Pefumerias Avenida and Girona FC.
The Hot Hand
• Ros Casares has so much depth and quality to call upon, it's hard to pick out who is likely to be the key for them in the Final since there has been an array of players who have all produced good performances across the last three games. No one or two individual players have really stood out.
• It's been a great team effort from Rivas but undeniably Asjha Jones has been in the starring role of leading lady in front of a superb supporting cast. She is gunning for a spectacular double-double Final Eight tournament having averaged a spectacular 22.3 points and 12 rebounds per game in Istanbul. Even more impressively, she has a shooting percentage of 64.63%.
• Jones has rightly caught the eye and been the headliner for Rivas but Elisa Aguilar has rolled back the years with some super play and shot the ball a fantastic 53.3% from downtown. Ros Casares can't give her open looks because she is feeling it right now.
• Ros has not shot the ball particularly well from outside and perhaps Rivas will take their chances by playing a sagging zone defence and filling the paint to ty and counteract the powerful Ros fontcourt. After all, the Ros frontline as scored by far the bulk of the points.
• Ros was brutal in their punishment of turnovers in their last game against Wisla with Eshaya Murphy taking full advantage of fast break points. This was borne out of some excellent Ros defence and so Rivas will have to make smart decision offensively and jam the ball in transition really well.
• Since they are domestic opponents it's interesting to consider whether previous meetings this season will have any kind of impact from a technical aspect or mentally with those involved. For during each meeting this season, Rivas has not even been able to get within double digits of their opponent.
Asjha Jones has been playing the best basketball of her career during recent days, although she was not included in the USA Women's Olympic roster announced this weekend. So, it will be interesting to see if this affects her in any way and whether it knocks her out of her stride. Most importantly, someone has to guard her and stop her scoring so freely. That is likely to be a primary job and the key match-up of the game. Ros has so many options in terms of coming up with a strategy and Ann Wauters, Sancho Lyttle, Jana Vesela and Isabelle Yacoubou are all potentially capable of playing some role in trying to nullify the threat she poses.