They are not necessarily the best players of each tournament in every case, but here is my personal list 17 players who made a right royal splash at FIBA youth events during the calendar year.
Maria Vadeeva (Russia)
Already a senior star for her country, a EuroLeague Women champion and yet perhaps her best memory will be ending the USA’s stunning run of titles at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup. The Final was an epic for the ages in Udine and Vadeeva walked away with the MVP accolade. She is a women’s basketball robot. The Terminator. Still the best women’s youth player I have ever seen from a destruction and productive standpoint.
Raisa Musina (Russia)
Well you can’t have one without the other can you? Many people say Russia’s other standout player is more technically gifted than her team-mate and during the gold rush in Italy, she was outstanding and some felt unlucky not to be handed the MVP award [I don’t agree with that by the way]. The forward was a colossus in that competition and remains such a great prospect at senior level.
Klara Lundquist (Sweden)
On the blue star radar from some time and one of the first players flagged up by @bluestareurope back in the day via tournaments such as the Baltic Sea Cup, Lundquist played at U18 level and was sensational. Showing how much she is evolving and maturing, she scored in a big way, but was also top of the efficiency chart in Sopron. She is also now establishing herself as a senior Swedish player and as you can see above -shining in Damligan too!
Iliana Rupert (France)
— Paul Nilsen (@basketmedia365) September 8, 2017
The touching story behind the loss of her father was powerful and he will have been looking down on her with real pride after a dazlig athletic effort for France as they won the U16 medal on home soil. Athleticism and power in equal measure, Rupert was the driving force and is a lock to one day jump to the senior side.
Claire Melia (Ireland)
Ireland made history as they hosted the U18 Division B and gained promotion to their first ever Division A tournament. It is never easy when an entire nation puts pressure on your shoulders, but Claire Melia delivered – and then some!c She was the do-it-all, home star and the massive and noisy crowds fed off her leadership and energy.
Laeticia Amihere (Canada)
— Laeticia Amihere (@_Theblackqueen_) November 23, 2017
She showed the guts to dunk in a major tournament [U19 World Cup] and while it did not come off as she lost the handle, that takes serious courage. It might not go down well with the coaches, since she does still have a long way to go. But, such bravery, exciting athleticism (still raw) potential all bode well. If she can now knuckle down, listen, learn and avoid any ego, what a player she could be. Love her game.
Lisowa Mbaka (Belgium)
Belgium basketball is on fire right now and very exciting as this relatively small nation continues to produce some interesting players and she is one of them. She was MVP of the U16 Division B and it was her maturity and all around efficiency which really caught the eye in a big way.
Nika Muhl (Croatia)
— Paul Nilsen (@basketmedia365) August 8, 2017
The playmaker had a spectacular 7 assists per game at the U16 Division A in Bourges and caused quite a buzz with some of her play. WHat was most interesting is that she also had 6 turnovers and caused a debate as to how much was having to try and force it to get her team through, and how she might curtail this in the future. Interesting and huge talent for sure!
Aliyah Boston (USA)
The forward and captain of USA when they won their U16 title, Boston was rock solid all the way – someone you all know about already Stateside of course. She got MVP and we will be looking out for her at future tournaments at the FIBA level.
Anna Aslanian (Armenia)
Showing that even if you are playing U16 Division C and for a non-basketball power, we can still give you deserved recognition, step forward Anna! She had a triple-double in the Final for Armenia and took the MVP accolade after a monstrous 17 points and 16 boards per game.
Agnes Emma-Nnopu (Australia)
Girls Got Game prediction:
She's not 2.03m yet but 13 year old Agnes Emma-NNopu is Australia's next Liz Cambage. pic.twitter.com/iiTMyluMog
— Girls Got Game (@GirlsGotGame1) July 18, 2014
As the tweet above states – there have been high hopes within Australian basketball circles about this kid. Perhaps too high, but she showed a real glimpse of her talent and potential by helping her side clinch the U16 Asia title against Japan. She has certainly got game and get her high on your watch-list for U17 in Minsk next year! Can you imagine her and Ezi Magbegor in the Opals’ frontcourt at the 2024 Olympics? Hmm.
Gergana Ivanova (Bulgaria)
There is some considerable excitement around the capabilities of Ivanova who amassed huge numbers for her nation at the U18 Division B. With this having come off the back of a couple of relatively modest efforts at previous U16 tournaments – was it a fluke? Or will she continue in this vein? We can’t wait to see!
Awak Kuler (Finland)
— Jussi Laakso (@JValley23) June 28, 2017
With incredible athletic ability, wingspan and also a dunker who has captured some real traction on social media channels, Kuler has been fast tracked to the Finland senior team at just 16-years-old. She was a force at the U16 Division B and although much of it remains ‘rough diamond’ stuff in need of a polish, she has massive potential and so much time to refine her game. Impressive.
Annamaria Prezelj (Slovenia)
— Paul Nilsen (@basketmedia365) July 16, 2017
Already a senior with the national team and having played at EuroBasket Women Final Round making history, she also wrote another chapter for Slovenia shortly afterwards at U20. She led them to their first ever Final as they took silver and came up with my quote of the year. Intense, a leader and not your typical kind of playmaker – she is my kind of player with her mentality and sheer will to make the most of what she has.
Nyara Sabally (Germany)
The Ducks have signed forward Nyara Sabally! The sister of Satou, Nyara averaged 17.3 points and 12.8 rebounds this summer as she was named MVP of the FIBA U18 European Championships. #GoDucks #SigningDay pic.twitter.com/lwMU5pvxhK
— Oregon Women’s Basketball (@OregonWBB) November 8, 2017
Her monster double-double at U18 Div B to guide Germany to promotion only further cemented her long-standing reputation as one of the most exciting prospects in the European game. She will now complete the sister act with Satou to further strengthen the Ducks! A powerful force in the paint, you have got to love her game a lot!
Aissetou Coulibaly (Mali)
The standout player from an Africa perspective this year at youth level, Coulibaly was unstoppable as she guided Mali to yet another title at U16 level. Big numbers but also an inspiring presence for those around her, she is high on that Minsk watch-list for U17 World Cup next year!
Billie Massey (Belgium)
A triumph for substance over style, the MVP of Belgium’s surprise U18 title win in Sopron, showed what can be achieved with will, desire, application, fundamentals, strength and the right mentality. That is not saying Massey does not have skills, because she does. We salute you!
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