Bourges – FIBA Europe U16 action took place last month in Bourges, France. The tournament saw an athletic and dominant France team win the gold medal on home soil, its 1st title at this level in 10 years. Hungary and Italy finished respectively 2nd and 3rd, while Latvia and Spain booked the 2 final qualifying spots for next year’s FIBA U17 World Cup. The overall level of action wasn’t necessarily great and besides France and at a lesser level Italy no team have really impressed. The gap between the upper ranked teams and the lower ranked ones was gigantic, giving a very uneven set of action. Latvia are the surprise team while Germany and Turkey could argue they end at inadequate positions. So now let’s have a closer look at which players caught my eye this year. Let’s not forget the girls here are just 16 years old and sometimes younger. Much can happen in the coming years in their development either way.
All-Tournament 1st team
Alessandra Orsili (Italy), Point Guard
The exciting PG was influential in Italy’s run to the bronze medal. She is an up-tempo player with great offensive skills and an impacting change of pace. A real floor manager and vocal leader, she controls and leads her team with confidence. A strong personality, she is willing to fight and shows great determination till the very last second of every game. You have got to love her competitive mentality! Willing to take the difficult and clutch shots, she regularly converts them, sometimes acrobatically, thanks to off-the-dribble mid-range jumpers or explosive drives to the hoop. While she must still improve her shooting percentage, she knows how to create her own shots. Ball-handling is not an issue as she is talented with both hands which serves her good court vision and helps her set the flow for her team. Her 5 rebounds per game only add to her influence and show her involvement on both sides of the floor.
Zoé Wadoux (France), Shooting Guard
The definition of a shooting guard! Taking more than 10 threes a game and connecting almost 40% of them, Wadoux has impressed all tournament long with her elite long range shooting. She is so exciting, you just wait for her to do marvels at every game. Saying she is a very confident shooter wouldn’t even do her service. One of the fastest release out there, similar in form to Kayla McBride’s one, she will score her feet set with a defender in her face, in rhythm on a catch-and-shoot, off a screen, off the dribble, etc. Numerous times has scored up to 5 threes in just one half, sometimes even just one quarter. A real scoring force as her 16pts per game testify, she doesn’t doubt. Most of the time has the hot hand and can score in bunches, even from very deep. Out of 7 games, has had only one sub-par shooting effort, rest was remarkable. Top these assets with a very strong mentality and determined attitude on the court and you most certainly have, if all goes well, a key player for France for the next 15 years. Until the very last minute of the final game was in contention for the tournament’s MVP title which she eventually had to leave to her even more impressive and dominant center team-mate Iliana Rupert.
— FFBB (@ffbasketball) August 5, 2017
Helena Pueyo (Spain), Small Forward
In an otherwise average Spanish team, Pueyo impressed during this European championship. She looked so mature and in control of her game at the wing. Always in search of the best option for her team whether feeding the post or a cutting player, taking a clutch shot, controlling the ball, rebounding or coming with a defensive stop or a steal. Her great physical condition and strong body type allow her to always be on top of things. Able to bring the ball up in transition, run the floor, take and make perimeter shots she is a great all-round player. She can cover easily up to 3 positions on the floor and quietly fill the stats sheet as in Bourges where she averaged 11pts, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and almost 3 steals a game. In many aspects her profile reminds me the one of Marta Xargay, especially her precocious maturity and unfanciness: she doesn’t brag or show off, she just delivers. Look out for her as she appears set to have a glorious youth career which should lead in the future to a solid spot on the senior NT roster.
Partido Amistoso vs Estu 💪🏼🏀🇪🇸 pic.twitter.com/MIMsSqqBWj
— Helena Pueyo Melchor (@Helena_Pueyo6) July 21, 2017
Ilaria Panzera (Italy), Small Forward
With Orsili, Panzera was the other pivotal player for Italy at this tournament and one of the overall standouts. Voted unanimously to the all-tournament team, she possesses so many qualities to her game: determination, fearlessness, leadership and versatility not being the least. At just 16 she is a natural leader and a great offensive force. Not the tallest small forward, she compensates with an excellent sense of the game and strong will. She doesn’t mind carrying her team on her shoulders and does quite well doing so. She scores, rebounds, assists and steals indifferently. During the tournament we discussed her case with my colleague Paul Nilsen and saw interesting similarities between her game and the one of Italian NT legend Rafaella Masciadri, as she is capable of doing everything on the court, she even was often used as back-up option to Orsili when this one was resting on the bench. I could add two other comparisons as she has the same kind of killer mind set as Europe’s newest star Cecila Zandalasini, and, in a shorter version, she reminds me very much of WNBA champion Jelena Dubljevic as she is very confident in all sorts of 1-on-1 situations. She has great physicality, though not the fastest nor tallest player out there, she doesn’t mind contact to score, loves to be isolated and take on her defender with either a strong drive or a confident jumper, shows interesting efficiency from beyond the 3 point line and most importantly fights like a bull on both sides of the floor. Never satisfied, showing emotions and refusing to lose, she seems set to bring her game to higher standard in the near future. Can’t wait to watch her play at next year’s U17 Worlds.
Iliana Rupert (France), Center
The MVP of the tournament. Had it not been for Wadoux’s prowess, the case would have been closed in no time. She literally owned the paint. At times you could think she was 1 or 2 age category above the rest of the players. Tall, athletic, mature, smart and skilled, you have got to love watching her play. Her towering presence is only amplified by her know-how of the game. She knows, feels what has to be done equally as not to be done. She reads and analyses the game so well. Whether in offense or in defense she is elite quality. She knows and uses all of the available post moves, right hand and left hand. A reliable scorer and strong rebounder she finished the tournament with a fine 14pts/10.5rds double-double average in just 22 minutes of court time, to which you have to add steals, blocks, assists and quality screens. Few players have showed so much composure and quality at this age. She can also bring the ball up in transition, she runs the floor perfectly and can spread the offense beyond the 3 point line. Daughter of the late Thierry Rupert, former France NT player, she wears the number 12 in honour of her father who passed away 4 years ago of a rare heart disease. If all goes well, Rupert is on her way to an illustrious career. The U17 Worlds next year will be a great opportunity for her to make her 1st statement on the global scene, 1st of what I presume to be many statements.
— BeBasket (@Be_BasketFr) August 12, 2017
Têtes de championnes d'Europe ! Félicitations les filles ! Bonne soirée ! 😁🏀🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/jvQeKj0oSk
— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) August 12, 2017
All-Tournament 2nd team
Marine Fauthoux (France), Point Guard
Part of the many French players who have impressed during the tournament is team captain and PG Marine Fauthoux. Coming off an injury might have affected her sensations on the court as she has been prone to turnovers and has not always taken the best decisions… Also, if not for the scoring (11.3pts) her tournament stats would be unremarkable and wouldn’t reflect her real quality. She missed the first three games finishing healing an injury and when she returned for the final four games she was used coming off the bench. Nevertheless she showed great composure displaying strong ball-handling skills, quickness, good and creative 1-on1 guard skills, a daring shooting selection, a leader and decisive-player mentality… She can be counted for if somebody has to step up: scored in double digits in last 3 games with a tournament high of 17pts in the semi-final. She doesn’t mind being an impactful scorer when needed. Can be very focused and reliable as testified by her FT percentage: she finished at 100% with a fine 16 from 16 in four games. Can develop in the coming years into a very important player.
Marine Fauthoux's dribbling skills are awesome…🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/cOnZk5Okay
— YoungBuckets (@YoungBuckets_bl) August 30, 2017
Marie Pardon (France), Point Guard
Was the starting PG for France. Showed strong dribbling skills and good composure with the ball in her hand. Scoring and shooting is not her priority as she likes to set the tempo for her team, to manage the floor and to look for the open player. Nevertheless she is capable of very creative moves/drives to the hoop and her strong fundamentals can lead her to one day become a more important offensive force. She is a tall point guard at 5ft11 with a long frame thus fitting well modern guard profiles. Very focused in defense, she doesn’t struggle guarding smaller opponents, she rarely is taken off guard and doesn’t mind going for the rebound. She showed strong character and even eccentricity on some actions during the tournament underlining a determined and daring mind. Should work on her long range shooting and cut down her turnovers as she loses the ball slightly too much.
— Lyon ASVEL Féminin (@ASVEL_Feminin) August 17, 2017
Aliz Varga (Hungary), Power Forward/Forward
In a very balanced and even Hungary team where a lot of players (Wentzel, Toth, Madar) had similar profiles, sizes and could switch positions invariably, Varga emerged as a very promising forward. She has good size, is smart and shows patience and calm on the court. She will never force an action and will look for the best option available. This team orientated approach sees her do all the little things needed as rebounding, defense and passing. As far as shooting is concerned, she can spread the floor with a nice 14-16ft range and is very capable with both hands finishing close to the rim. Runs the floor well and is very mobile. Like Marine Fauthoux she didn’t miss a FT during the tournament though she shot only 9 times, but it shows here again strong reliability for her team and a solid shooter potential. Looking forward to seeing her develop in the coming years.
Kendra Chery (France), Power Forward/Forward
Of all the already impactful players in the tournament, perhaps the player with the biggest improvement margin available. While her incredible athleticism (vertical elasticity, speed, strength) and body frame (6ft2 with a very large wingspan) give her a big ascendant on any opponent in this age category and work naturally well on the defensive end (3 steals, 1.5 blocks and 6 rebounds per game), she is still very scholar in her offensive moves and will improve in that category. She is a very enthusiastic and determined player, showing great motivation and strong will. Once her basketball skills will match her physicality, she will be very hard to stop as she can become a dominant forward. Her fine form shooting the FT and her good average (82%) lead to think she can become a good shooter in the future. Big potential!
— FFBB (@ffbasketball) August 7, 2017
— BlueStar Media (@BlueStarMedia1) August 8, 2017
Emily Bessoir (Germany), Center
The starting German center had people take notice finishing the tournament with a strong double-double average of 13pts-14rbds. She is a rebounding machine (finished top rebounder of the competition) and an excellent blocker (2nd with almost 3 blocks a game). She is always very alert in defense which leads her to be in the right spot and deflect or contest opponents’ efforts. She reads the plays well and senses where the threat is going to come from. She is not a flashy player, as the rest of her teammates, and will not fill the highlights as she executes her game quietly. But she is precious in many aspects. She can score, though her shooting efficiency needs improvement, and spread the floor with an interesting range including from beyond the 3 point line (32%). Could easily move to the wing spot later in her development as she is very mobile, runs well and can shoot the ball but her size and a lack of other tall frontcourt options in her team will certainly see her remain in charge of the center duties. Despite Germany finishing in a sub-par 6th place, she was still voted to the All-Tournament team which speaks volume for her potential and quality.
official website of the competition : www.fiba.basketball/europe/u16women/2017