Across the Pond With Linda Frohlich
October 9, 2007 -- As you surely saw, the USA Women's National Team just cleaned up at the recent FIBA Americas Championship in Chile, earning a spot at the Olympics next summer in Beijing. But that wasn't the only international competition going on around the basketball world. This past weekend saw Europe crown its own champion, as Russia held off Spain to win the EuroBasket title and book its own place in China.
And as there was in Chile, there was some WNBA representation across the pond. Sacramento Monarchs forward/center Linda Frohlich suited up for her native Germany, and though her team finished a disappointing 11th overall, she led the squad in both scoring and rebounding against the fierce European competition.
After making her way back to California for a quick rest before heading back overseas to play this winter for Taranto in Italy, Frohlich spoke with WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield about her EuroBasket experience and the improved level of play both there and around the world.
Q. Germany went 2-4 at the EuroBasket tourney in Italy. Was that a satisfying finish for you?
A. "No, it was pretty disappointing actually. These are championships, you know? We're in competition with the rest of the teams around the globe! We're trying to make it to the Olympics! And that was our goal. We needed one more win to make it to the quarterfinals, and we didn't get it. But we'll move on and hopefully improve next time around."
Q. Russia is becoming a true world power in women's hoops, especially after beating the U.S. at the World Championships last fall. Were they far and away the best team you saw over there?
A. "They're an awfully good team, but I have to say… I was really impressed with all of the teams over there. I think the level of play has improved so much in recent years. The teams are very well organized, well coached and well rounded. Overall, I think that's a great thing to see for the growth of the sport, especially in Europe.
"Fans and media over there really got into it also. They have professional, well-informed opinions and they really follow it. They love their basketball and critics are serious about it."
Q. Lynx forward Svetlana Abrosimova and former WNBA center Maria Stepanova are two of the stars on the Russian squad. What do you think of them as players?
A. "Oh, Stepanova is a fantastic player at both ends of the court. She makes that team considerably better. Svet is another great player who has obviously proven herself here in America, both in college and the WNBA."
Q. Are there more players overseas who you think could come to the States and be successful here in the WNBA?
A. "The competition here is probably tougher, but, for example, the Czech Republic has a couple of great players who have never played in the U.S. Spain had a couple of players here in America this past year, like (Sparks guard) Marta Fernandez. They also have Amaya Valdemoro and Laia Palau, who are terrific players.
"Each of the top nations over there has a couple of stars who would probably have a shot at making it in the WNBA. Skillwise, I think they'd be capable of playing. If they found the right team with the right fit and the right situation, they could make it. I truly believe that many of the stars over there could play in the WNBA."
Q. Mystics center Yelena Leuchanka and her Belarus squad won bronze at the EuroBasket tourney over in Italy in the team's first ever trip to the event. What do you think about her and that surprising result she helped bring about? And which are typically the teams to beat at European tournaments like this?
A. "Russia and Spain are usually near the top… those two teams were in the final… and the Czech Republic, which didn't do as well as they expected to. France has also historically done a lot better than they fared this time around.
"The surprising team, though, was definitely Belarus. They're a very young team with great speed and skill that really came out of nowhere to surprise everyone and grab that bronze medal."
Q. With their gold medal, Russia has clinched a spot in the Olympics next summer. Where do the other teams now stand? Do they still have a shot at making it to Beijing?
A. "Yes, Russia is in for sure. The teams that finished second, third, fourth and fifth, then, have qualified for the World Olympic Qualifying Tournament next summer and can play their way into the Olympics."
Q. How do you feel the competition level at an international event like this compares to the level of play here in the WNBA?
A. "It's difficult to compare the styles. The European game is more traditional, more fundamental. There are more set plays and it's all about execution and teamwork. But the reason the level of play is improving in Europe is that there's more athleticism creeping into that traditional style.
"Here in the WNBA, the game is organized and there's plenty of teamwork, but the athleticism really stands out. And as more Europeans play here in the States, we get exposed to the more athletic style of game for extended periods of time. We don't only see it at international tournaments against the USA anymore. So as we bring that athletic style back over to Europe, it's like adding a little spice to the traditional basketball."
Stay tuned for more "Across the Pond" updates and analysis from Frohlich in the coming weeks as EuroLeague and EuroCup play tips off.