Comparing last year’s Gospic (mind you they finished 5-9 in the regular season) roster to the one Novi Zagreb has compiled, there’s a talent disparity even just looking at the local players playing for both teams. Jelena Ivezic and Marija Rezan are on a higher level than, say, Vrdoljak, Mazic or Bedalov. Having top tier Croatian National Team players is essential for this kind of team that does not employ high level European imports, just two Americans. Technically Dunja Prcic is an European foreigner, but a player that fails to excel even at EuroCup Women level is not what I had in mind when thinking about high level Europeans.
Every opponent’s objective will be to limit Sandra Mandir, to make their night easier. For the two games Courtney Vandersloot will be there, she will be an able shot creator alongside Mandir. When Leilani Mitchell arrives, that dynamic will change. Mitchell’s offense is limited to making open three pointers, she will not drive to the hoop to create offense. In a sense it might have been better to sign Vandersloot for the whole season, instead of Mitchell. Remaining wings available are Brkljacic, Butina, Buzov, Cacic, Juric, Packovski, Prcic, Seric, Vrdoljak. You might have heard of Vrdoljak. If you’re an avid youth basketball follower you might be familiar with Packovski or Butina. The point is no one has had a really extended international career, heck, none of these players have even been a can’t miss youth prospects. Now imagine these players facing Laia Palau, Belinda Snell, Marta Xargay, Nicole Powell, Alba Torrens, Lindsay Whalen, Diana Taurasi, Deanna Nolan. It’s like two different worlds colliding, and you can bet that the one with Novi Zagreb will not prevail.
Inside players for Zagreb are a bit more respectable with Latoya Williams, Sena Pavetic, Mirna Mazic and Gordana Bedalov. But that’s compared to their outside line. When you compare them to everyone else’s posts there is not a positive outlook on things, maybe only against Mondeville.
Mondeville, who don’t look too great themselves, is the preseason most beatable opponent for Zagreb this season. And it will not be pretty, as some of the players who played them during pre-season have said, paraphrasing, “they went to a martial arts competition and a basketball game broke out”.