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10 players who deserve praise after #FIBAU16Europe
NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) – While the All-Star Five at the FIBA U16 European Women's Championship in Kaunas enjoyed their individual accolades, several other players deserve recognition.
Here are 10 more players in addition to MVP Caterina Gilli, Mama Dembele, Marta Garcia, Sude Yilmaz and Katerina Zeithammerova, who I think should be applauded for their efforts.
Simona Visockaite – Lithuania
After last year's nightmare in France when Lithuania went 1-7 and technically suffered relegation – only to be given a reprieve for hosting this year's edition, the pressure was back on their leader. Visockaite revealed on the eve of the tournament how her Olympian father was an inspiration, and he will have been very proud at the way she ensured her nation stayed in the top flight. She showed great maturity by not trying to force matters and finished as the second-most efficient player in the entire competition with a fine tournament double-double of 10 points and 12 boards per game.
Ilaria Panzera – Italy
The wing wizard can count herself a little unfortunate to be have missed out on the official All-Star Five this time, since she put in some nice performances for the champions and delivered big plays in the key moments. She has quality and an 'X-Factor' for sure and this tournament was more like Bourges last year when she took Italy to Third Place. Now she has a winners' medal and it will be particularly satisfying after a very quiet tournament in Minsk at the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup. The biggest thing for me though, was the massive 3.6 steals per game – something which sometimes gets overlooked because of her classy offensive efforts!
Simona Fiserova - Czech Republic
Highlighted as one of the players to watch heading into the tournament because of her play at last summer's edition in Bourges, it has to be said that Fiserova certainly delivered. She pushed hard for a spot on the All-Star Five and nobody could have really argued had she been given the nod. A towering presence who helped to propel her team to another Final at this event and to continue their impressive podium record in recent years, the forward was immense at times. She finished in the top three for her team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and efficiency – taking top spot in the last two of their categories.
Reka Dombai – Hungary
Another competitor who we flagged up as someone to watch heading into this tournament, Dombai was not only on our radar because of her displays in 2017, but also because of her special performances at the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup in Belarus earlier in the summer. Yet again, the versatility, leadership, effectiveness, efficiency and all-around skills of the Hungarian ace had us smiling in admiration. She did everything possible to get her team towards a shot at a medal and had they not been back in 7th place, Dombai would have been pressing for the All-Star Five once again.
Alberte Rimdal – Denmark
Tipped by some observers as one of the favorites for the drop to Division B, Denmark preserved their Division A status off the back of an imposing and fruitful offering from Rimdal. She eventually signed off her participation in Kaunas as the leading scorer in the tournament with 18.1 points per game, but what impressed most is that they were obtained so efficiently. This was not a standout star on a weaker roster just jacking up as many shots as possible. Yes, she took more attempts than her peers, but shot towards 50 percent in an eye-catching return. Too many turnovers was always an inevitability as she had to cope with being double-teamed by opponents, but 4.3 assists, 2.3 steals per game made up for this.
Giorgia Balossi – Italy
Winning basketball games means so much to any team and player, while winning titles is even more special. As a neutral, to watch a champion team play with so much chemistry is such a pleasure. While in Balossi, Italy didn't just have a playmaker who served up 4.5 assists per game, they had someone who had you on the edge of your seat in anticipation and that is an ingredient which not many rising stars can offer. Balossi was a regular on the daily highlights reel and with the excellent Italy head coach Giovanni Lucchesi allowing her to express herself freely, she did this with real panache and I loved it. Also, while quite loose with her passing style, it did not translate into too many turnovers, with a respectable 1.8 per game.
Laia Lamana Llobera – Spain
While she was overshadowed by her Spanish colleagues Marta Garcia and Mama Dembele, who both played very well indeed to make the All-Star Five, I think much credit must be handed to Llobera. She had to settle for limited minutes, but I think she showed a lot of promise. I thought her defensive intensity was awesome and while it was a disappointment her worst game was probably in the Semi-Final with Italy from an offensive perspective, she still had 6 steals in that match-up. A very interesting player who did lots for the team with relatively little court time and I think she has the capacity to grow and improve nicely on offense.
Eszter Madar – Hungary
Madar is my type of player for sure. When you recognize her simplicity and the way that for minimum effort she gets maximum productivity, you have to love her approach to the game. Hungary have got a talent on their hands and I think she epitomizes my new-found love for a nation on the rise in the women's game - a country whose players are showing what is possible with sound fundamentals, a feel for the game and appreciating that you can be a power without having to over-bake the cake! The forward smashed it with 35 from 60 from the floor, with her smart shot selection, stellar work on the glass and astonishingly low 7 turnovers in 194 minutes on the floor meant she was the most efficient player in the tournament. That was not a surprise at all! She ghosted her way into every open space on the floor and either knocked it down, or just found a teammate with the easy pass and then moved away to another open space elsewhere. Quality.
Magdalena Szymkiewicz – Poland
Having asked everyone to check her out ahead of the competition as one of my players to watch in the tournament, it was a relief to see her continue her blistering form from the warm-up games. Most interestingly, it was fascinating to watch Poland with a true scorer and that is something we have barely seen in these past lean years. At all levels, Poland seem to have really struggled for scoring talent and while it is early days and Szymkiewicz is very young, it may be the case that they have unearthed an offensive power. She can certainly shoot, has great range and it was also good to see her play smart and take care of the ball too. I will be tracking her progress closely in these next years to see if she is senior team material.
Meriem Nasraoui – Italy
Every successful team normally has an 'unsung hero' and for me at least, it was Nasraoui who served this role so perfectly for the gold medalists. She was a rock, the model of consistency and while all of the 'flair players' did their respective thing, she quietly got on with business. Averaging 19 minutes per game, she made 50 percent of her shots and was the most deadly high-volume shooter for the champions, as well as being handy on the glass and a nice physical presence. Nothing flashy was on show, but this was a real performance to please any coach. She deserves the limelight as it was a top job!
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