09 - 14
August 2021
8 Franka ćuklin (CRO), 12 Marija Avlijas (SRB)
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The standout players from the FIBA U16 Women's European Challengers

MUNICH (Germany) - The FIBA U16 Women's European Challengers provided us with a glimpse of many rising stars who could potentially shine on the senior international stage in future years.

Slovakia, Spain, France, North Macedonia and Slovenia all celebrated Challengers titles with several standout individual performers across the five tournaments located in Helsinki (FIN), Piestany (SVK), Tbilisi (GEO), San Fernando (ESP) and Matosinhos (POR).

Helsinki Challenger

Dominique Malonga  (France)


Birth date: November 16, 2005 (15 years old) 
Height: 198cm / 6'6" 

Statistics: 19.8 PTS, 9.8 REB, 2.8 BLK - 25.4 EFF

Malonga was an absolute powerhouse for France as they went unbeaten in the Finnish capital and can count herself unfortunate not to have been named Challenger MVP. After all, it is not easy to stand out on a stacked team that went unbeaten and won the group, but the center did a great job throughout, leading her side in efficiency, scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking. She is also the latest baller to underline the strength in depth of French basketball and to reinforce the fact that the conveyor belt of talent continues to roll nicely. 

Elina Aarnisalo (Finland)


Birth date: July 26, 2005 (16 years old)
Height: 176cm / 5'9"

Statistics: 23.4 PTS, 4.6 REB, 4.0 AST

It proved to the ultimate bitter-sweet experience for the guard who took the plaudits for her special individual displays and that led to being crowned MVP in Helsinki. However, unfortunately, it may be that missing out on potential history with Finland that will be remembered most vividly as the hosts were squeezed out of a first-ever FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup place in a five-way tie-breaker. Even if Aarnisalo did everything she could to get her side to Debrecen next year. Still, she looks like a great potential senior performer in the coming years.

Annika Patricia Soltau (Germany)


Birth date: March 25 , 2005 (16 years old)
Height: 192cm / 6'4"

Statistics: 17.4 PTS, 11.4 REB - 22.2 EFF

It proved to be a historic and memorable campaign for Germany as they qualified for the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup for the first time. At the heart of their success was the work of Soltau who recorded a fantastic tournament double-double to carry her team in so many of the games. A great prospect, Germany have produced some excellent wing and frontcourt players in recent years and the future looks incredibly exciting with players like Soltau coming down the track as well.

San Fernando Challenger

Marija Avlijas (Serbia)


Birth date: January 6, 2005 (16 years old)
Height: 175cm / 5'9"

Statistics: 25.2 PTS, 4.4 RPG

As Serbia perhaps get ready to turn a page at the senior level after a period of unprecedented success, eyes are turning to see what is in the pipeline down the track. The displays of Avlijas will have caught the eye after she was named the MVP in San Fernando after a string of terrific displays in a seriously tough group. Her scoring power is clear for everyone to see and the fact that she can probably shoot the ball even better than she did, highlights her emerging talent and how much is still to unleash.

Kateryna Koval (Ukraine)


Birth date: January 13, 2006 (15 years old)
Height: 193cm / 6'4"

Statistics: 26.0 PTS, 14.2 RPG, 3.0 BLK - 26.4 EFF

It was an epic effort from the center who led her country brilliant under the basket with a power-packed display that harvested some eye-bulging numbers. Her tournament double-double was phenomenal and especially her shot-blocking which helped Ukraine to stay competitive, even if they only picked up a solitary victory. Watching Koval also had many fans wondering what a combination it could be for the seniors if she continues her development and then gets to play with Alina Igaupova.

Matosinhos Challenger

Ajsa Sivka (Slovenia)


Birth date: November 23, 2005 (15 years old)
Height: 190cm / 6'3"

Statistics: 12.5 PTS, 8.8 REB, 3.0 STL, 2.8 AST

Good things are happening across every level of Slovenian basketball and 2022 promises to be exciting as they get ready to play at the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup for the first time. They went unbeaten in the Challenger in Matosinhos and a big reason for this was the influence of Sivka. The forward was a power at both ends of the floor and stood out in the games with her composure and quality that bodes well for an exciting future. 

Tbilisi Challenger

Mihaela Aleksovska (North Macedonia)


Birth date: March 25,  2005 (16 years old) 
Height: 175cm / 5'9" 

Statistics: 25.8 PTS, 4.8 REB, 3.0 AST, 6.8 STL - 20.3 EFF 

North Macedonia never lost a game in the Georgian capital and the guard was one of the main reasons they were able to conquer everyone they faced in the Tbilisi Challenger. While Aleksovska contributed a do-it-all performance across the tournament, it was her stellar defensive work that really stood out. It's tough to remember many players who left a competition having averaged a truly breathtaking 6.8 steals per game. 

Piestany Challenger

Faith Ehi Etute (Luxembourg)


Birth date: October 24, 2005 (15 years old) 
Height: 172cm / 5'8"

Statistics: 20.0 PTS, 19.8 REB, 4.0 STL, 3.8 AST - 32.6 EFF 

The fact that Etute is included in the list should not be a surprise once you take a glance at those jaw-dropping numbers which are so huge, it is hard to get your head around them and process the data. It was particularly fitting that she showed out in the last game for her team to get a first win on the very last day. Her display was the best of the competition as she racked up a staggering 45 efficiency after torturing Ireland with 24 points, 21 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals. It also led to her being named MVP.