Spain v Sweden; 6 Frida ELDEBRINK (Sweden)
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Changes to calendar around FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 a boon for ever-expanding WNBA Eurovision

NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) - There's little doubt that the change to the calendar around the FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 Qualifiers window has been of benefit to the WNBA.

While each summer will still be occupied by the inevitable major tournaments locked into the cycle, there is much more room for those players not involved to now move Stateside.

It is already manifesting itself of late with the likes of Zoi Dimitrakou, Jelena Dubljevic, Frida Eldebrink, Evgenia Belyakova and Katerina Elhotova all jumping aboard - helped by the fact they won't have any commitments with Greece, Montenegro, Sweden, Russia and Czech Republic respectively.

The Qualifier windows have seemingly expanded the scope for the WNBA to have a more eclectic demographic and hopefully with that, broaden the appeal further around the globe - something which fits neatly into the accessibility offered by technology nowadays.

So what can be expected of the European class of 2016?

Zoi Dimitrakou (Washington Mystics)
Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising for a lot of people and a player who can split opinion. I have read some derogatory comments about this acquisition by the Mystics, but the feisty Greek forward has never pretended to be a finesse player. She will bring hustle, energy, a hard-nosed outlook at both ends of the floor and ultimately, she's really blossoming and playing some of the best basketball of her career at Agu Spor in Turkey. Yes, she can be a little erratic at times, but if a contest needs shaking up, then I would be quick to call upon her. I like Dimitrakou because she is always involved in a game. She also seems to have matured so much having needed to become a big leader for the Greece national team in recent years. It will be particularly interesting to see how she does, defensively.

Jelena Dubljevic (Los Angeles Sparks)
A smart forward who much like Dimitrakou, won’t back down from anything and breathes fire whenever she is on the floor. Dubljevic is often the centrepiece in any European game – whether it is with Galatasaray in EuroLeague Women, or for Montenegro. There have been some questions about her durability after some back injuries, but she seems to have shrugged that off now. She is someone who can score inside because of her mobility and touch. She could also be fun to watch because of her physicality and aggression which balances up with her skills. She is not the biggest forward by any means, but can pack a mean punch.

Frida Eldebrink (San Antonio Stars)
One half of Sweden’s ever reliable (twin) sister act at national team level, Eldeberink is a scorer who can also handle the ball more than competently and is a nice combo guard for any team. She never really looks flustered and is capable of scoring either side of the three-point line. Ironically, she has signed for the Stars off the back of probably her least productive season, since she has shot the ball sub 30 percent for Dynamo Kursk in EuroLeague Women. Although this is most definitely the exception in her career, rather than the rule and she does have real class and a great basketball IQ.

Evgenia Belyakova (Los Angeles Sparks)
I love Belyakova and ever since Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje gave her the platform to grow as a player in their post four-time EuroLeague Women winning era when they had to subsequently slash the budget – the Russian guard has stepped up. She has since moved on and is currently with UMMC Ekaterinburg, having re-routed via Dynamo Kursk. She is playing almost 19 minutes per game for the juggernauts in EuroLeague Women on a roster which is as long as it gets - something that speaks volumes about her capabilities. Her three-point shooting is outstanding as it is all about the shots she smartly turns down, as well as those she makes. She is around 47 percent at the moment and don’t ever think she is only a shooter because her displays for the Russia national team dispel that myth. She is gold dust for me - a great shooter but one who doesn't feel compelled to shoot and sees the bigger picture at critical moments.

Katerina Elhotova (Minnesota Lynx)
Finally, if I had my life in the hands of a shooter, there would be no need to toss the coin between Belyakova and Elhotova because both would tick the box for me. Elhotova’s career has regularly seen her post 40 percent-plus from downtown at the elite level and the current campaign with EuroLeague Women champions ZVVZ USK Prague has been no different. For Lynx to be able to bring her off the bench would be a major boost as she is instant offence if you can get her open. There have been some question marks over her defence, but her upsides down the other end of the floor certainly outstrip those concerns.

Finally, one of the most interesting dynamics is to consider which are the best European players yet to find WNBA court-time? There could be some gems still out there in a topic to be continued!

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.