According to the Atlanta Dream, Belarussian center Yelena Leuchanka has been signed to a one-year contract by the Atlanta Dream.
“Yelena gives us great depth in the post area,” said Marynell Meadors, Dream general manager and head coach. “She’s a physical player with the ability to post up or shoot the midrange jumper. I have been fortunate to watch her over the years and she just keeps getting better. She’s going to be a very good player in the WNBA.”
The Atlanta Dream has been trying to sign this team for over two years now. In both 2008 and 2009 the DFO tried to pin Leuchanka down to a contract, and we were told over and over again that she was coming, but the DFO just couldn’t get the signature on the paper. The Dream have finally hit the target.
Leuchanka is a native of Gomel, Belarus, a town close to the current boarder of Russia. Belarus was a part of the USSR when Leuchanka was a little girl. Leuchanka was a tall girl growing up and ended up at Olympic High School in Minsk, where her basketball training was intense. She made the Belarussian junior national team, but she wanted to come to the United States.
However, her English wasn’t good enough to go to a four-year university. She started at Seminole Junior College and went to Wabash Valley Junior College, and finally came to West Vriginia. Unfortunately, she suffered ACL tears and sat out the 2003-04 season. She would also have another injury and sit out the second half of the 2004-05 seasons with a left knee injury. In 2006, she would be signed as a free agent by the Charlotte Sting in Charlotte’s final year as a WNBA franchise. She would also play for the Washington Mystics in 2007. Over two years, she played a grand total of 67 minutes – but her Washington stint undoubtedly brought her to the attention of Marynell Meadors, then an assistant coach with Washington.
Since 2007, Leuchanka has played overseas for teams in Spain, Lithuania, Russia and Turkey. This year, she’s averaging 10.6 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game in Euroleague, playing 30 minutes a game against the best players in the world. She’s an 81 percent free throw shooter, and is no a shot blocker. She shoots 54.8 percent from the field.
So where does Leuchanka go? If the Dream want to keep three tall women on the roster next year, then one of these three players has to go: Sancho Lyttle, Erika de Souza or Michelle Snow. So, as the song goes “One of these things is not like the others…!”
Another question: in 2010 will Leuchanka have the kind of season she’s having in Europe this year or will she revert to her 2006-07 numbers as a rarely used player? I don’t know, but it will be interesting to find out!