Considering the team was coming off a fifth place finish in French league and a finals appearance in EuroCup Women, 2011/12 season was a step backwards for the French team. They finished eleventh in the French league (out of 14 teams) and were ousted in the quarterfinals of EuroCup Women by Vologda Chevakata. They got lucky in the French Cup were they erased 18 point deficit against French league champions Bourges Basket, thanks to Bourges going cold and Sabrina Reghaissia led Arras getting hot in the final quarter.
French Basketball Federation rules meant that as the Cup champions Arras gets to play in EuroLeague Women. As you will see it during the season, that rules is better off being changed, because this Arras team playing in EuroLeague Women will give a bad name to the French league, just like the winless Tarbes did in 2011/12.
I say that because this team both on paper and in their domestic season opener has looked worse than the last season’s 11th place finishing team. Gabriela Marginean and Pauline Akonga, two players who won them games last season by themselves are now gone (Akonga is on a maternity leave this season), as are the point guard Leilani Mitchell and Russian NT center Nadezhda Grishaeva.
If you look at the offseason signings, none of them are of the same level of their predecessors. Even if she has her detractors, Leilani Mitchell has proven she is a WNBA level point guard. Dawn Evans is not. Pauline Akonga was on the peak of her career and was averaging 16 points in both ECW and the French league. Sandra Dijon is way past her prime and even then she had only one career year where she was able to average double digit scoring both in France and internationally.
No one of the quartet of Ajanovic/Malashenko, Dabo and Dorogobuzova are at the same level of Nadezhda Grishaeva who followed up her season at Arras with making the Russian National Team. First impression of Malian 203 cm tall center hasn’t been positive. The Connecticut Sun first round draft pick in 2012 WNBA draft right now has only displayed that she has the height. She is not a tenacious rebounder despite her height advantage over 99.9% of opponents and her offensive arsenal is very small right now.
Neither Krissy Bade nor Johanne Gomis have the same ability to score as the Romanian wing Gabriela Marginean has been displaying at Drexel, last season with Arras and the Romanian National Team. In defense of Gomis, she had her best season when she was in with Arras in 2011, but the only players remaining from that team are Bade and Malashenko, even the coach is gone.
In their opening week game in French league, Arras did not only have issues on offense because of the lesser offensive talent, they also struggled mightily on defensive end against a team like Lyon who were without their best player. If they play like that against Nadezhda or Fenerbahce it will become very ugly, very early.
Despite playing in a group with a team like Targoviste, it would not be surprising if this team finished winless, like Tarbes did in 2011/12.