When USA go to Udine for the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup, I am looking forward to seeing how they cope with what could be the biggest opposing frontcourt in the competition.
Forget ‘The Great Wall’ of China, the Asian powerhouse are preparing to team up two hugely talented players in the paint in what could be a fascinating glimpse into the future of the senior national team.
On the topic of which, one of those players destined for Italian soil in July could be the one to smash my desire to see the double act, since the 6ft 7in Li Yueru is actually playing with the senior team in a bid to make the FIBA Women’s AsiaCup 2017.
The 1999-born star had a shaky and nervous looking start after missing some easy lay-ups against Senegal in an exhibition outing, but still impressed in other areas. Her physical attributes, technical skills and basketball IQ need some work, but she has all the tools to develop into a leading player for her country at the highest level.
Remember, this is a player who has been rampant in her own FIBA region – averaging an eye-popping 22 points and 16 boards at the FIBA Asia U16 Women’s Championship in 2015 and then a similarly jaw-dropping 16 points and 14 rebounds per outing at the FIBA Asia U18 Women’s Championship last year.
It will be a close-call as to whether she makes it to the FIBA Women’s AsiaCup and it is more likely she will be parachuted back into the U19 squad which contains Han Xu who I have spoken about previously.
The other twin tower who stands above 6ft 9in played last year at the FIBA U17 Women’s World Championship in Zaragoza and competed against the States in the Semi-Finals. She also racked up some seriously big numbers with 15 points and 10 boards.
The pair actually played together in that FIBA Asia U18 Women’s Championship in Bangkok, Thailand last year and even taking into account the poor quality of the opposition as China soared to gold with a 7-0 record, shooting 55 and 68 percent respectively tells a story.
Albeit for a lot of the time, China had the luxury of being able to rotate – more than necessarily pairing them together. But that could possibly change in Udine, should they both be present as I hope.
Right now, USA’s opponents (minus Yueru) have been in a four-team preparation tournament recently against Lithuania U20, University of Regina and a team of USA All-Stars who are mainly former NCAA players. Three notable participants on that USA All-Star team were Nicole Kornet and Kari Korver (UCLA) and Alisia Jenkins (South Florida).
The results were as follows, with almost 4,000 fans turning out to watch the opening game.
China U19 70-66 USA All-Stars
China U19 81-51 University of Regina (Canada)
China U19 89-46 Lithuania U20
China U19 82-42 University of Regina (Canada)
The biggest challenge for China when they play at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup will probably be in the backcourt. If the excellent Wang Jiaqi gets inured, their medal hopes will go up in smoke. There is no doubt about that.
But, if both of their twin towers are present and Wang is firing, it might give USA something to think about in the first phase!
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