16 - 25
June 2017
11 Katerina ELHOTOVA (Czech Republic)
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Group A preview: Can the Czechs ride the wave of home support?

HRADEC KRALOVE (FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017) – There will be no more intense group at FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 when it comes to the combination of both on and off the court passion than Group A.

Host nation Czech Republic will try and draw strength from the partisan support as they look to navigate their way to the next phase of the competition.

Head coach Ivan Benes will debut at the helm and after an uninspiring preparation period, hoping the fans can energize his teams’ campaign. It will be built around the shooting prowess of ZVVZ USK Prague star Katerina Elhotova and the strength in the paint of the recently naturalized Kia Vaughn – a former EuroLeague Women MVP is a huge boost.

They will be joined by important Prague teammates such as Alena Hanusova and Ilona Burgrova. Meanwhile, veteran center Petra Kulichova coming back on board after a three-year sabbatical, could be hugely significant.

The challenge for Czech Republic remains the lack of a top quality and proven point guard, so they can expect their opponents to continually try and pinch this vulnerable pressure point.

Looking to break home hearts are Hungary and Ukraine.

The former have the exact opposite issues to the Czechs, since they have an abundance of talent in the backcourt, but look fragile in the paint.

There's incredible quality in the naturalized Courtney Vandersloot, who has been sensational in a historic and spectacular season for EuroCup Women and Turkish champions Yakin Dogu Universitesi.

Let's go Hungary 😎🍸🏖☀️🏀 💪👍☝️✔🇭🇺

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With renowned 3x3 baller and point guard Dora Medgyessy getting a debut and 'golden oldie' Zsofia Fegyverneky still going strong, there's little for play-caller Stefan Svitek to worry about.

However, the reliance on Tijana Krivacevic to make some noise in the paint is a concern and any injury or foul trouble could prove fatal to their prospects. She will receive intensive defensive attention, although the versatile Nora Nagy-Bujdoso might help mitigate matters after sealing a major tournament return for the first time since 2009.

Ukraine have had a turbulent few weeks and look wafer-thin in their frontcourt. They have a shocking record at recent editions of the Final Round and having completed the double over champions Serbia during a flawless program in the Qualifiers, they were being tipped to make a deep run and push for a place at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018.

Yet, that optimism has faded after a string of absences, including the influential Olga Dubrovina and an array of talent under the hoop in Aleksandra Khomenchuk, Viktoriya Mircheva and Valeriya Berezhynska.

Nevertheless, it would be foolish to write off their chances. They still have big-hitters and if Olesia Malashenko stays healthy, along with Kateryna Dorogbuzova who works tirelessly, they have forwards who can inflict damage.

Любовь к баскетболу😅💛💙

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They also have a naturalized guard in D'Andra Moss who will line up alongside their kingpin, Alina Iagupova - one of the most athletic, explosive and prolific players in the women's game, she is impossible to stop once she gets on a roll and she will be the centerpiece of Ukraine's challenge.

Rounding out Group A are the runaway favorites to finish in pole position, Spain. Even a loss in France in their last preparation game won't change the fact the Olympic Finalists are fancied to regain the title they relinquished during 2015 in Budapest.

They have a world-class selection of guards in Laia Palau, Anna Cruz, Marta Xargay, Silvia Dominguez, Leticia Romero and Silvia Dominguez. It is an incredible backcourt rotation that is complemented perfectly on the wings by the dynamic Alba Torrens – touted to finish as EuroBasket Women MVP if things go well.

With WNBA forward Sancho Lyttle back to give some defensive steel, it's only concerns about a perceived lack of size that leaves a question mark. But, with one of the best and most successful coaches on the planet in Lucas Mondelo, who just loves to play quick, Spain are still ready to set the tempo – and the standards.