11 Becky Massey (BEL), 4 Eva Hambursin (BEL), SRB vs BEL
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A to Z of the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship 2017

NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen’s Women’s Basketball Worldwide) – There was a surprise champion and an exciting conclusion at the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship 2017 in Sopron and here’s my A to Z guide of the tournament.

A is for All-Star Five of Billie Massey, Ivana Katanic, Klara Lundquist, Kadiatou Sissoko and Veronika Vorackova.

B is for Belgium who took gold and continued up a superb calendar year which also saw their U20 team reach the Quarter-Finals in Matosinhos, while of course there was that historic maiden bronze medal at FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017s.

C is for champions and has there ever been a more unlikely or unfancied winner of a youth tournament in Division A?

D is for didn’t know what to think when I tuned into YouTube and saw both teams warming up together at one basket. Turns out that Croatia and Sweden were just showing good sportsmanship while a quick repair was undertaken to the roof above. Phew – thought I had missed a communication about a rule change!

E is for every successful team normally needs players who get their head down and go to work diligently behind the star or headline performer. In this case, take a bow Marie Vervaet of Belgium who was absolutely integral behind the Massey sisters.

F is for Final and we were treated to an absolute nail-biter and thriller as Belgium prevailed 55-53.

G is for Germany and a sweet moment in Division B in Ireland, when Nyara Sabally was crowned MVP – just weeks after her older sister Satou received the MVP award at the FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship Division B!

H is for hosts and of course Hungary – another strong event and Sopron is becoming synonymous with youth basketball in Europe – thanks for all the hard work!

I is for Iris Junio, the Spanish player who had her burgeoning career savaged by injury and is maybe now redefining her role from a leading star to a role player in the short-term. In the longer-term, I hope and expect her to revert to the kind of impact she had when she originally burst onto the scene!

Just be positive...Have faith...Come back stronger!

A post shared by Juhász Dorka (@juhaszdorka4) on

J is for Juhasz, the classy Hungarian star Dorka Juhasz who tore her ACL and that saw the hopes of the home side go up in smoke. Get healthy soon Dorka!

K is for Klara Lundquist because there are few more exciting players of her generation than the Swedish ace in full flow! It was great she got an All-Star Five place, even though Sweden were back in 8th place. She was the tournament’s top-scorer and also led in steals too.

L is for Lithuania who were horrendous at U20 and relegated, finished in a relegation spot at the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship in Bourges and then crashed through the trap door into Division B in Sopron. Only special dispensation as hosts of the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship 2018 has stopped them suffering a relegation clean sweep as they have been permitted to remain in the top tier at that age group.

M is for MVP Billie Massey who was a colossus and 'Captain Fantastic' for the winning team. The scary thing about this? She still has one more year playing U18.

N is for no surprises that Spain finished as low as sixth and only just avoided one of their worst-ever finishes with a buzzer-beater. It's harsh on the players, but not a winning generation and to be fair, they do have some seriously tough acts to follow down the years.

O is for only the love of the game. That became clear with Czech Republic head coach Ken Scalabroni who has been play-caller with some of the biggest men's club's in Germany but was just as passionate and dedicated in this tournament - having fun with his players and making an eye-catching and deep run in the competition.

P is for photobombing the celebration photo. I respect Arvid Diels hugely and this was an amazing accomplishment, but I never like to see any play-callers right in the middle of the formal celebration picture. Just doesn't look right to me – as amazing as it was to deliver gold for Belgium. Sorry if that is controversial or raining on the parade!

Q is for 'Queen of the Swats' Billie Massey who hit the 20 blocks landmark!

R is for relegation and it almost crashed down on Latvia who only just escaped. It was arguably a surprise, since many of their players had competed reasonably well at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup leading up to Sopron. Perhaps fatigue was a factor.

S is for Serbia who made such a great run to the Final to take silver and only just missed out on a title by one long-range basket.

T is for top plays and here they are!

U is for underdogs Bosnia and Herzegovina who were without their wonderful leader Melisa Brcaninovic but managed to survive another year in Division A by 'doing a Sweden' and winning one game to remain in the top tier!

V is for Veronika Vorackova who is such a dynamic talent for Czech Republic – although no big smile for her on the All-Star Five photo after having one of her teeth knocked out.

W is for where did the ball go? Did anyone else see when the game ball shot out of a door behind the basket and into the darkness? The game was stopped as volunteers manfully used the light on their mobile devices to locate it – with a certain FIBA Editor coming up trumps! One of the strangest things we have seen at an event!

X is for 'X- Factor' and in Division B in Dublin, it was a combination of partisan home support and Claire Melia [who led her team in efficiency, points, rebounds and assists] as Ireland booked their first-ever place at a Division A tournament by gaining promotion.

Y is for young players watching and supporting other young players. Just a few years ago, Serbian Olympian and senior team star Aleksandra Crvendakic was playing for her country at this very event an winning a medal. So, it was inspiring for the current crop to see her sat courtside and lending her support to Serbia.

Z is for Zsofia Fegyverneky who led another successful and vitally important Players Workshop session – with some great feedback for the Hungary national team veteran.

Paul Nilsen


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Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

As a women's basketball specialist for FIBA and FIBA Europe, Paul Nilsen eats, sleeps and breathes women’s hoops and is incredibly passionate about promoting the women’s game - especially at youth level. In Women’s Basketball Worldwide, Paul scours the globe for the very latest from his beloved women’s basketball family.