What if I told you there was a women’s basketball team with five WNBA All-Stars, a former Defensive Player of the Year, two WNBA Peak Performers, and the reigning WNBA Finals MVP? Sounds like something out of 2K, right? What if I told you that this team not only exists, but they play in Russia?
UMMC Ekaterinburg is the best basketball team that you’ve never heard of. They play in Ekaterinburg, the fourth largest city in the Russian Federation, and they feature a simply unfair stockpile of WNBA talent. UMMC boasts the talents of Jamierra Faulkner, Allie Quigley, and Courtney Vandersloot of the Chicago Sky, Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury, Maria Vadeeva of the Los Angeles Sparks, Kayla McBride of the Las Vegas Aces, Emma Meesseman of the Washington Mystics, and Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun. You may recognize this list as a list of some of the best performers from this past year’s WNBA playoffs, all playing on the same team, in the middle of Russia.
It’s no wonder that UMMC Ekaterinburg has gone undefeated in the first month of their season; 5-0 against teams in the Russian Premier League, and 3-0 against EuroLeague competition. This team has it all, from elite point guard play (McBride and Vandersloot), wings that just can’t seem to miss a shot (Meesseman and Quigley), to Bigs that can dominate the paint on either end of the floor (Jones, Vadeeva, and Griner). UMMC literally has more WNBA superstars than they have spots in their starting line-up; which might be a problem in itself except for the fact that many of these players are used to playing important roles off the bench. Quigley and Jones are even former Sixth Women of the Year.
What UMMC has goes way beyond a collection of skilled basketball players. Though the roster may look like one, this is not an All-Star team. There is no vanity here, only cohesion. The profound respect these players have for each other’s games comes through in watching their chemistry on the court. The women of UMMC Ekaterinburg have seen first hand how devastating their teammates can be by playing against them in the WNBA, and they’re eager to utilize each other’s talents to unleash that same devastation on UMMC’s competition. When they’re running on all cylinders (read: always), UMMC is a sight to behold.
UMMC is the team in white and orange kicking some serious ass
UMMC has a seemingly infinite array of ways to hurt you on offense. Their ball movement scheme, anchored by the best pass-first point guard on Earth in Courtney Vandersloot, features them whipping the ball around the court at lightning speed with surgical precision. Watch the way that Vandersloot and co. are able to find open, high efficiency threes and lay-ups in the first few plays of the above highlight reel. There’s very little that opposing defense can do to stop UMMC from getting the ball exactly where they want it, or from putting the ball in the basket once it’s there. This team’s three-point shooting is unrivaled, with Allie Quigley and Emma Meesseman bringing some of the most consistent shooting in basketball. As if this isn’t enough to bury their opponents, UMMC Ekaterinburg can also back you down in the paint and get easy lay-ups through footwork or sheer strength by feeding any of Jonquel Jones, Maria Vadeeva, or Brittney Griner in the post. There is not a single minute of basketball where UMMC doesn’t have a star center anchoring their offense, surrounded by star ball movement and star shooting. It’s honestly just unfair.
There’s still room on the UMMC Ekaterinburg bandwagon, and I’d hop on now if you have some free time in the morning and afternoons and feel like watching a masterclass in basketball. All games are available through FIBA’s YouTube channel, and you can find the team’s schedule here. Many of the WNBA players on UMMC had no offseason between the end of their WNBA season and the beginning of the FIBA schedule; there’s a whole other article to be written about WNBA players depending on European contracts for financial stability. These are seven of the best and most hard-working basketball players on the planet. Give one of their games a watch, you’re going to like what you see.
Image Source: AP Images