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18 - 26
July 2015
5 Maria VADEEVA (Russia)
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Vadeeva not feeling the weight of expectation

CHEKHOV (2015 FIBA U19 Women's World Championship) - Russia ace Maria Vadeeva heads into the Final of the 2015 FIBA U19 Women's World Championship against the USA as a potential MVP in waiting.

She will be top of the USA scouting report and understandably so, having put Australia to the sword with a ruthless 27 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots in a decidedly one-sided Semi-Final victory.

Having been on the radar in her homeland for a while, then having lit it up as MVP of the U16 European Championship Women last year, she is now being talked about as being arguably the best player of her age in the world.

"Wow - just wow!" is her reaction when such a notion is put to her.

Her surprise at the mere suggestions speaks volumes.

Having only just turned 17 years old, her stock may be rising almost vertically with every outstanding performance, but her feet are clearly rooted on the ground.

It is helped by the fact she is effectively playing with not only her team-mates, but in many cases her friends - colleagues such as fellow Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje center, Raisa Musina.

"I have known Raisa since my childhood," she revealed.

"In fact, I have known so many of the players as we all belong to the Sparta&K family.

"We really like to play on the court together and we also like to make a good game together."

She was also quick to play down her role in the victory against Australia - preferring to focus on the way the team got things done.

"The Australian players are good and especially in the areas of fast-breaks and rebounding," she mused.

"But we won and we just showed we were better."

It was indeed an excellent team display from Russia, but as much as Vadeeva might want to avoid the limelight - that is becoming an impossibility.

She was sensational against the Gems and Russia head coach Dmitry Donskov was full of praise for his star attraction.

"The team are all doing great work and Vadeeva is such a fantastic centre," he said.

"She is the best player I have seen in the youth age group during my entire career and she is doing such a great job in this tournament."

As for Vadeeva, she is sticking to the formula which has served her well so far.

That is simply to keep her head down and not think about the expectation or labels being placed on her - while also benefitting from the way she has and indeed continues to be nurtured by Sparta&K.

"I just always play my basketball and try to do my best," she explained.

"I don't feel any pressure at all."

But there is little doubt that a large chunk of the home nation's hopes on Sunday will rest squarely on her shoulders.