I am back for the 1-2 punch with my Basketmedia365 colleague Pierre Ploszajski, as we pick out 8 interesting players to follow at the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship 2017 in Sopron, Hungary.
While not necessarily the very best and well-known players, these are some of the participants we enjoy watching and are looking forward to seeing.
Here are my four:
Mihaela Lazic, Croatia
The guard propelled Croatia to a terrific fifth place last year at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship and also made the All-Star Five in Udine. Seeing how she does at her first outing at U18 level is going to be fascinating. Mainly because I feel she has huge potential but she also has some defensive vulnerabilities to take care of. Her passing vision is solid and she is an outstanding rebounder for her position and is the type of player who plays fully focused for long periods. A leader for her country and composed in the clutch moments, I want to see how she can drive them forward in this competition, but also whether she has evolved since Italy in 2016.
Zala Friskovec (Slovenia)
Well what can I say about this versatile and beautifully balanced player? The guard/wing is my find of the year. She has not played for Slovenia at a youth tournament since 2015, but lit it up last month when she catapulted Slovenia to a surprise and historic first ever Final at the FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship in Matosinhos. She is very graceful on the floor, she runs well in transition, she glides past players when she puts the ball on the floor and seems to create so much time as opposed to other players as she makes decisions. I love her game – a lot!
Iris Junio (Spain)
Having watched Iris player her first major tournament for Spain since 2014 at the recent FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup 2017, it will be a big test of her durability as she tries to make it back-to-back competitions. She came very, very close to quitting the game after a few years of horrific injuries. This is a player who made history at the youngest to ever play in the top Spanish League when she was just 14-years-old and you will remember that great Final of the FIBA U17 Women’s World Championship in Pilsen duirng 2014 when Angela Salvadores dropped 40 on USA and won the MVP gong? Well, Junio was the other big performer for Spain. She has to play in short bursts these days as she gets back to full health, but her athleticism is still there and she is smart.
Dalia Donskichyte (Lithuania)
I am always fascinated by players who are written off by some people because they are too slow, too small, too big etc…. There are little doubts that Donskichyte is under-sized – even for a point guard! Yet I love her tenacity and to me at least, I see her as having the technical skills to make a potential career in the sport. She is a scoring point guard – as demonstrated at no fewer than three consecutive outings at U16 level. This will now be a step up for her and can’t wait to see if she will still put points on the board, create and most importantly – show maturity to eradicate her level of turnovers.
Now for Pierre and his choices…..!
Elisa Pinzan (Italy)
Pinzan will do her best to get a 3rd medal in as many summers during this U18 tournament. She is an unselfish guard who shows strong leadership on the court. She brings high energy, big heart and unique determination to any game. She possesses solid guard skills and is most likely to fill many categories of the stat sheets as she has used us to so far in her on-going international youth career, be it points, rebounds, assists or steals.
Kadiatou Sissoko (France)
In a France team that doesn’t really put individualities forward, Sissoko’s set of skills do not always find room to shine but she demonstrated at times during last week’s U19 Worlds what a terrific athlete and basketball player she can be. She has speed, tonicity, great size and length as well as some shooting range. If she is given the green light by her coach and starts to get rolling she can prove to be unstoppable.
Aleksandra Kroselj (Slovenia)
An exciting guard who shows great versatility as her youth tournaments stats record shows. She averaged over 30 mins a game at this year’s U20 tournament during her country’s historic silver medal run, she also represented Slovenia last year at this U18 level and was a scoring force, finishing as her team’s leading scorer with 17.5 points game. As the solid backcourt power she is, count on her to also find her open teammates, to defend and to overall lead Slovenia’s effort to improve from their 10th place finish from last time out.
Adela Smutna (Czech Republic)
An exciting small forward/power forward, Smutna possesses a nice soft touch with the ball in her hand and is both an efficient and doubtless shooter, not least from behind the 3-point line. While this wasn’t necessarily the case this season in senior Czech League, where she has already been playing for two seasons, she made nearly 50% of her 3 point shots in Zaragoza last summer at U17 Worlds. At that tournament she led her team in scoring and helped them reach a final 5th position. You can always count on her to be active and mobile on the court where she shows a promising positioning sense. Her quality foot work and poised attitude are other attributes that suggest she will develop in a major player for her country in the coming years.