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Our super must-watch player list for Sarajevo
SARAJEVO (Bosnia and Herzegovina) - The FIBA U18 Women's European Championship 2019 in Sarajevo will be packed with stellar talent and we've taken some time to pick out just some of the best.
Here is our selection of must-watch players for the event, as we put a special focus on those who we could see at future major tournaments with their respective senior teams :
Nika Muhl - Croatia
A skilled playmaker, it's been an incredible rise to prominence in the last 12-18 months for Muhl. The Croatian ace starred last summer at the 2018 edition of this event and has since been recruited by leading NCAA College, UConn. She has also appeared at the prestigious Basketball Without Borders Global Camp. Expect her to be riding high in the the assists charts and to one day go on to play in EuroLeague Women - one of her ambitions.
Mama Dembele - Spain
The point guard caught fire last year in Kaunas at the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship and her performances were so good that she made the All-Star Five of the tournament. Lightning quick, always active defensively and with nice creative ability, it was not a surprise she took second place in the competition for both assists and steals. While she will play as one of the youngest on her first trip to the U18 level, she should still make an impact.
Reka Dombai - Hungary
Since Hungary also have the not so small matter of the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup in Thailand to juggle, it remains to be seen if Dombai will definitely play in Sarajevo, since stepping out on the global stage in the Thai capital is surely a lock. She is an incredible performer, starred at the U17 Women's Basketball World Cup last year, has killed it in the highly rated Hungarian League where she was one of the leading scorers. Her talent and production has also resulted in a big move to CMB Cargo Uni Gyor meaning EuroCup Women action in 2019-20.
Ilaria Panzera - Italy
Fun to watch and one of the big hopes for Italian basketball, Panzera has been around for longer than most of her youth peers, since she started in an Italian vest younger than most. In fact, she joined a relatively small club last year of players who have competed at the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship three times. Her last was most memorable in Kaunas last summer as she played a leading role in firing Italy to the top of the podium!
Helena Pueyo - Spain
In a nation known for its highly skilled and talented guards and wings at every level, the conveyor belt continues to roll, with Pueyo another rising star tipped for the top. She has big potential and was recently recruited to play in the NCAA by Arizona. She impressed last season with Segle in the second tier of the Spanish Leagues and has also caught the eye in FIBA youth tournaments. Pueyo led Spain in steals at the 2018 edition of this tournament in Udine and also made her global debut at the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup last year.
Serena Kessler - France
Athletic, smooth and skilled, Kessler will play at U18 level for the first time having impressed last year at the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship. She is able to contribute in all areas of the game and has good versatility too, meaning she can be an asset in more than one position. She led France in scoring and rebounding in Kaunas last summer and considering she is not a frontcourt operator, it confirmed her athletic edge and nose for the game.
Magdalena Szymkiewicz – Poland
If Poland are going to get back among Europe's leading nations at senior level, then in the next 3-5 years, they will be hoping they can benefit from an influx of talented rising stars into the ranks. Szymkiewicz falls into this category if she continues to show the potential of last year at U16. She is a very talented scorer and that is something Poland have lacked at all levels for a long time. Racking up more than 16 points per game in 2018, she was the second in scoring at the tournament in Kaunas.
Iryna Venskaya - Belarus
Belarus will be delighted with the progress of Venskaya who was the standout player for her nation as they proudly hosted the FIBA 17 Women's Basketball World Cup 2018. The guard is a offensive threat and her play has led to her featuring at the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp, which was a big prestige for her in a country crazy about the senior team. Fans will be wanting her to push soon for a spot and with other classy players having already emerged such as Ksenia Malashka, maybe the future is very bright for Belarus.
Marta Garcia - Spain
A classy forward/center, Garcia is ready to do her thing at this tournament after some sparkling performances at the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship. Back in 2017 she shot almost 60% from the floor and last year, she went even better by making the All-Star Five off the back of leading Spain in points and rebounds - as well as featuring in the top three for both efficiency and assists. The player also had a strong season in Liga Femenina 2 last year with Segle.
Simona Visockaite - Lithuania
With Lithuania missing the past two FIBA Women's EuroBasket Final Rounds, they will be keen to get back on track and the new generation has some exciting prospects - including Visockaite. She led her team on home soil last year in Kaunas at the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship. She claimed a tournament double-double and has since been a participant at the Basketball Without Borders Global and Europe camps.
Raquel Carrera - Spain
One of the best prospects Spain have for the next decade and beyond in their senior frontcourt, hopes are seriously big that Carrera can continue to evolve. She is an absolute handful for any defender because of her size and skill-level and she nows how to deliver success. She has shone brightly for Spain throughout her youth level, winning gold in 2016 at U16 level and she is one of the few players to have played twice at the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup, She will play with Araski in Liga Dia during 2019-20 when she is expected to make a big impression in the Spanish Championship. Especially as she was the MVP of the 2nd Division for 2018-19 with Celta.
Katerina Zeithammerova - Czech Republic
It was a fine run last year to the Final of the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship and the main reason for that was the considerable thrust of quality from Ziethammerova. A dynamic player who is very quick and loves going coast-to-cost, she stuffs the highlights reel and will relish the challenge of any duel on the floor. She made the All-Star Five for taking the Czechs to silver and has been continuing her development at club level with ZVVZ USK Praha.
Caterina Gilli - Italy
Last but not least, is the MVP of the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship 2018. Gilli is a super performer who was the driving force in Italy's gold rush as they took the title in the Lithuanian capital. She also caught the eye in a big way at the FIBA U17 Women's European Championship too. She gained big experience with a full season in the excellent Italian top flight last year for Vigarano where she competed against a wealth of top drawer opponents.
*Players subject to Final Selection by their respective Federations.