Last week, Sky coach James Wade was excited to learn Russian powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg was matched up against the up-and-comingFrench club Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomeration (BLMA) in aEuroLeague quarterfinal series. Meanwhile, his wife, Edwige Lawson-Wade, had mixed feelings about it.
Wade, an assistant coach for UMMC, was hoping to play the best-of-three series against a French team, so he could visit his wife and son. Lawson-Wade was hoping he would play in France, too — just probably not the team she is the general manager for.
“We were happy we got it,” Wade said. “I mean, I don’t know how happy she is about it, but it’s big for their team.”
Gabby Williams, who plays for BLMA with newly signed Cheyenne Parker, is in the same boat as Lawson-Wade. When she found out her team was playing UMMC, she immediately texted her Sky teammates-turned-foesAllie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot, who are on UMMC.
“Her message, there wasn’t too much excitement,” Quigley recalled with a laugh. “It was kind of like, ‘Damn it, we got you guys.’ ”
Can you blame her?
In its first Final Eight berth in the franchise’s 46-year history, BLMA is pitted against the No. 1 team in the world.
UMMC, the winner of three of the last four EuroLeague titles, boasts a juggernaut roster that has seven WNBA stars, including Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Vandersloot. This season, they’re a combined 29-1 in EuroLeague play and in the Russian Women’sBasketball Premier League, with the team’s lone loss coming to TTTRiga in November.
While UMMC’s resources seem limitless, Lawson-Wade has to make do with a lot less. BLMA’s budget is significantly smaller than mostEuroLeague teams’, with other French teams spending $1 million-plus more than Montpellier.
“It will be tough,” Williams said of the matchup, which is believed to be the first EuroLeague quarterfinals to feature four WNBA teammates and a coach. “But I think we’re just excited to play the top team in the world for being such a small club in a smaller town, and we’re writing history for the team as we go, and anytime you get to do that, it’s huge.”
Quigley said there has been “no trash-talking yet,” but Williams figures it’s only a matter of time before it begins. Quigley would like to set a friendly wager on the series.
“Loser has to pay for dinner,” she said. “We haven’t established that yet, but I think that’s a good one.”
But Williams has no intention of taking her up on that.
“No, I’m not an idiot,” Williams said.
The bragging rights will be motivating enough for Williams.
“I’m sure it’s going to be something that we talk a lot about this summer, so you don’t want it to get brought up when you’re the loser on that end,” she said.
Wade believes it’ll be an exciting series. And though the first game isn’t until Wednesday, he already has won the battle of earning the loyalty of Jet, his toddler son.
“He’s rooting for me, no doubt,” Wade said. “He said it when we asked him; he’s like, ‘I’m going for Daddy.’ . . . My wife, she took a little offense to it, but that’s just the way it is.”
How to watch UMMC vs. BLMA:
Euroleague quarterfinals match up
March 11 at Ekaterinburg
7 a.m. CT
March 18 at Montpellier
2 p.m. CT
March 25 at Ekaterinburg*
7 a.m. CT
All games can be watched live at youtube.com/FIBA