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International prospects for the 2021 WNBA draft
NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) - The list of international prospects for the 2021 WNBA draft might just be one of the best in quite some time.
In fact, if WNBA clubs have done their research thoroughly, they should pick two players in the top 10 and dare I say it, maybe even in the top five of the 2021 draft. Here is my list of just some of those international players who should at least be under consideration.
Iliana Rupert - France
Club: Bourges Basket (FRA)
The center is surely one of the best players of her generation and it would be staggering to me if she did not make the top five in this draft. To put things into perspective, the teenager is already an established lock as an influential player not only for Bourges Basket in EuroLeague Women and the LFB, but also for France. She has already played at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019 and is heading to Tokyo, making the deserved and rapid transition from her glorious youth performances, such as making the All-Star Five at the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup in 2018.
She was also on the roster at the prestigious Basketball Without Borders Global camp too. Great size, a super basketball brain to go with her strength and athletic ability, she is a great young player and that balance of maturity and talent means WNBA clubs should be fighting like crazy to get her. The one fly in the ointment is that she will be one of the centerpieces of the Paris 2024 Olympics, so there won't be much time being spent on WNBA activities in the short term.
Awak Kuier - Finland
Club: Passalacqua Ragusa (ITA)
Sat alongside Rupert in terms of expectations and ability is the crazy athletic Kuier, who should also be in the top 10 and maybe the top five if WNBA clubs choose wisely. With an eye-opening wingspan, incredible bounce and ability to run the floor as well as go to work in the post, she is made for the league. Already a senior for the Finland national team, that comes off the back of multiple individual recognition and awards down the years. Her profile would have been even higher had she played at the global level for her country as a youth player or had Finland been able to make the FIBA Women's EuroBasket Final Round.
Marine Fauthoux - France
Club: LDLC ASVEL Feminin (FRA)
Working for Tony Parker in Lyon is a great position to be in as a young playmaker with a huge future. With a sky-high basketball IQ and such a composed outlook whenever she is on the floor, Fauthoux is destined to play again for France at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket Final Round and is a certainty to play and be a leader at Paris 2024 - although she may even sneak into contention for Tokyo as well after featuring in the Qualifying Tournament. At club level, she has already stepped into EuroLeague Women, playing alongside the exciting Marine Johannes.
Shya Heal - Australia
Club: Townsville (AUS)
Hailing from a basketball family, the guard has made a seamless switch into the Australian WNBL from the junior ranks at Townsville. She is showing she can do it at the pro level, having bagged a bronze and silver medal for the Sapphires and Gems at the FIBA U17 and FIBA U19 Basketball World Cups in the past couple of years. The fact she has also lit it up in 3x3, shows that she has a varied skill-set. Always willing to roll up her sleeves for the team, Heal continues to shine and is steadily developing into an accomplished baller.
Laura Meldere - Latvia
Position: Center/Power Forward
Club: Reyer Venezia (ITA)
The decision of Meldere to turn down the NCAA in favor of pursuing a pro-career straight from the youth game will have been a big disappointment for Colleges Stateside. But having went from Latvia to Italy many years ago as a kid to firm up her basketball education in Venice at Reyer Venezia, it always looked the most likely pathway. Strong, level headed and highly effective in the low or high post, Meldere has shone brightly for Latvia in youth tournaments, playing in three FIBA global youth competitions. She was also a star of the Basketball Without Borders Europe Camp in Belgrade and is now a senior player who is continues to move towards realizing her undoubted potential.
Maxuella Lisowa Mbaka - Belgium
Position: Small Forward
Club: Castors Braine (BEL)
Perhaps Lisowa Mbaka will be the surprise pick in terms of stats within the various rounds of this draft because she does offer so much in terms of her being a 'modern day' baller. Her versatility, multiple skills and approach all look suited to the WNBA game - even if she is arguably behind some other candidates in her accomplishments. She did impress at the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup and she is now looking to make a splash with Belgian powerhouse club Castors Braine. Moving up to the Belgian Cats at senior level is likely to happen perhaps more in 2021-22, but a WNBA club may have the foresight to recognize what she could be capable of in a year or two.
Raquel Carrera - Spain
Position: Center /Power Forward
Club: Valencia Basket (ESP)
Always identified as a major prospect since she was a kid and first pulling on a Spanish vest, it will be interesting to see if WNBA clubs can see her as a viable option for the league. She is a very good player and her highly intelligent outlook, combined with a reliable mid-range game is getting everyone excited in Spain. The senior team are crying out for someone with her size and mobility to deepen a worryingly short pool. But you can see that it will not be long before she is partnering Astou Ndour under the hoop at a major senior tournament in the next few years for her country.
Florencia Chagas -Argentina
Club: USE Scotti Rosa Empoli (ITA)
The WNBA will get five star entertainment and an increased audience interest from South America and Europe if someone opts for Chagas. Always full throttle, the Argentinian guard is currently balling in Italy and has illuminated both the FIBA U17 and U19 Basketball World Cups with her skills. A Basketball Without Borders Global camper, the guard is always stuffing the highlights reel and has great potential as she continues to mature.
There are a number of players who could also be considered and so here are a few more honorable mentions. France show just how bright their future looks since they have two more candidates in addition to Rupert and Fauthoux. The fiery shooting talent of Zoe Wadoux could be attractive, while forward Kendra Chery is playing EuroLeague Women right now with Basket Landes and is showcasing her athleticism. Both are Basketball Without Borders Global Camp alumni. The same can be said of guard Goksen Fitik of Turkey and several others who could also be on the radar.
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