Located at the best FIBA Continental tournament in the form of EuroBasket Women 2017, Blue Star Media has got it covered via myself and my Basketmedia365 colleague Pierre Ploszajski.
As the authors of the official Media Guide for the competition, we’re bringing you exclusive insight throughout the tournament [official website here] with regular questions and opinions.
Our third question of this mini-series is: Which ‘off the radar’ players have impressed so far?
Antonia Delaere [Belgium]
PP: While still lacking a bit of confidence when the ball ends up in her hands on the offensive end, where she’ll be keener to look for an open team-mate rather than take the shot herself, Delaere looks set to improve this aspect of her game very soon. Recently crowned ‘Player of the Year’ in Belgium, it’s only a matter of time before she explodes on the international scene. Expect her to have an impactful debut season in Euroleague Women next year with Castors Braine. After 2 games in Prague, she’s averaging a very solid 32 minutes and is looking in great shape. Belgium need her on the court as much as possible to look good. During the game against Russia the mission to try to stop Epiphany Prince fell on her shoulders and she gave her all to it. Her defensive capacities, her great composure on the court must be, and will be, complemented by taking her offensive game to better levels. She doesn’t turn the ball over but needs to believe she also can be a game changer in attack. The future of Belgium is taking new dimensions if she can team-up with Kim Mestdagh to form a international class wing duo.
Hhadydia Minte [France]
PP: As much of the talk around France goes with a reason to their Big 3 (Dumerc, Miyem, Johannès), the one player that stood out on top of these so far in the competition in Prague is the last one to have made the cut giving her at last a National Team debut in Minte. The forward had been overlooked since turning senior to represent France’s National Team. She only featured in a wider 1st list in 2013 under coach Pierre Vincent. She brings freshness, innocence and physicality to the court. Her above average athleticism and unique sense of positioning on the court make her a superb rebounder, a team energy level booster and a fierce defender. She’s has been owning the boards for France while also being given key defensive tasks (such as switching off Sonja Petrovic’s offense in the game against Serbia). In a France team known for their conservative type of play and their strict discipline, Minte could very well be the sparkle that shakes France’s game up. For a 1st outing, she doesn’t doubt and is more than likely to be a key contributor, even if not offensively, for her team.
Kitija Laksa [Latvia]
PP: Latvia needed a new player to step up at this tournament if they wanted to make their voice count and increase their chances of a doing longer run in the comp. With the recent retirement of legend Anete Jekabsone and the probable one from Gunta Basko-Melnbarde after this EBW, a new generation had to take responsibility. This is what Laksa just did in the first two games of the tournament. She has basketball running through her veins. She’s a natural, a fantastic athlete, she never gets tired [or doesn’t seem to], she always pushes herself and her team upwards. She shows a great deal of will and determination too – this last fact setting the base for greatness at some point . This is already her third time at the Final Round – despite only beig 21 years old. S0mething which speaks volumes about the credit she gets from her federation and national coaches. With now two full successful seasons at South Florida in the NCAA, she benefits from a wider knowledge of basketball. In Prague so far, she has established herself firmly in the starting five, tied-second for most minutes played (31.2) with Steinberga and only after the “in-the-zone” Babkina. She is a permanent threat offensively : excellent dribbling, classy 1st step and efficient perimeter shooting, she has many weapons to bring any defense down. It’s gonna be fascinating to watch her gain experience in the very near future
Alena Hanusova [Czech Republic]
PN: The fact that the Czechs bombed out as hosts after barely 24 hours of first stepping onto the court [surely a world record for the hosts of a major tournament], should not detract from some excellent play for Hanusova. She needed to step up in a big way and I thought she did. As well as her ability to run the floor and bring energy, I thought she did the physical stuff as well as anyone and was about as aggressive as I have ever seen her. Even with this setback, she convinced me that she can be a bonafide leader of the team for many years to come. I hope she can push on at club level too.
Bernadett Hatar [Hungary]
PN: Even if you find this a pick completely out of leftfield, just bear with me. Hatar is the tallest player in the competition and looks slightly awkward and ungainly, which is to be expected because of her 6ft 10in frame. But, up against a WNBA center in Kia Vaughn she actually did a good job. Even if the stats show her opponent scored well and efficiently, Vaughn was denied time and time again. Some of that was down to the poor Czech guard play which didn’t recognize opportunities well enough. She has also come up with a team-leading 6.5 boards per game so far and is only the third player on her team with a double-digit efficiency score.
Taisiia Udodenko [Ukraine]
PN: While all the mentions were being made of who was debuting at the competition, it has gone completely under the radar that this is the first for Udodenko. Hidden behind the sublime skills of the magical Alina Iagupova and like all debutantes, left in the shadow of Italy’s amazing Cecilia Zandalasini, there needs to be recognition of her contributions. She has been outstanding and curiously has been playing her club basketball on Czech soil at Nymburk. She is shooting 50%, is by far her team’s most efficient player, is in top six of the tournament for rebounding and has just been a surprise powerhouse option in the paint throughout. Something her team needed desperately after losing many frontcourt stars before the tournament started.
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