Spanou's record-setting career winding down with RMU women
Robert Morris women's basketball coach Sal Buscaglia knows his four years of turning to Artemis Spanou for scoring, rebounding or anything else the Colonials need are almost over.
She'll leave — perhaps even land in the WNBA — holding an array of RMU and Northeast Conference records.
For now, though, Buscaglia still has the 6-foot senior forward from Greece and hopes to send her out with an NEC title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“The only record I don't have in my books is the (NEC) ring, and that's the one I want to get now,” said Spanou, repeating the goal she set at the start of the season. “That's the one I'm focusing on getting.”
The Colonials stand a good chance of making that happen. They are tied with Mount St. Mary's atop the NEC at 13-4. The teams meet Monday at Sewall Center in the regular-season finale.
Top seeds host throughout the NEC Tournament, and Robert Morris (17-11) hasn't lost at home since Dec. 14, 2013. It also hasn't won the conference tournament and earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2008.
Spanou said she believes getting home-court advantage will be key but acknowledges it won't be easy.
“I think that having a young team and so many freshmen, we have to keep talking to them, staying positive and getting them tougher and tougher,” she said. “We have some tough games against the top teams, and everybody's going to come after us.”
One of those freshmen is Anna Niki Stamolamprou, who played with Spanou for two years in Greece as members of the national team. Spanou was key in Stamolamprou's decision to come to Robert Morris and has mentored the guard throughout the season.
“She's helped me with everything,” said Stamolamprou, whose 12.3 points per game rank second on the team to Spanou's 19.0. “On the court, she's helped me when I didn't understand something, and off the court we'd do things like going out to eat and spending time together and just speaking Greek. That's the most important thing because we're so far away from our homes.”
Spanou said she has enjoyed her role and giving Stamolamprou the connection to their homeland that Spanou never had as a freshman.
“Anna is a really good player,” Spanou said. “She's a smart player, and I told her (in Greece) that I think she can compete in America and do good with the team. As you can see from her numbers, she does a lot for the team. She plays a lot of minutes. She's a big part of this team, and I feel good that we have her here.”
Buscaglia said the coaching staff has looked to Spanou to set an example — and not just for Stamolamprou.
“I think everyone follows Artie's lead, quite honestly, and certainly Anna Niki would be one of them,” he said. “We talked to Artemis about that. As you do, Anna Niki's going to do. She could potentially be your heir apparent here, so you need to lead her in the right direction.”
Buscaglia called Spanou the best post passer he has seen, let alone coached. Teams can double- and even triple-team her, but she'll find the open player. Spanou will attend two WNBA tryout camps during the Final Four. She hopes to show she can compete with the best, but for now there is unfinished business at Robert Morris.
“It's sinking in (that it's almost over),” Spanou said. “We're getting to the end of my senior year, and I definitely want to do my best. We've come so far this year, and we're in a good position. The team is playing good and getting better, but this is the stretch where we have to show how tough we are.”