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My alternative FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 All-Star seven
NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen Women's Basketball Worldwide) - As the dust settles on the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2021, it’s time to take a look at those players who didn’t make the All-Star Five, but deserve some recognition.
Of course, huge congratulations to TISSOT MVP Sonja Vasic of Serbia and her colleagues from the official line-up in the shape of Julie Allemand and Emma Meesseman of Belgium, Jonquel Jones of Bosnia and Herzegovina, plus Endy Miyem of France.
However, I also thought it was interesting to present another line-up of players who also did a great job for their respective teams in this competition - including sometimes doing things that did not always show on the statistics. Together with the official All-Star Five, this completes what I feel is a very nice All-Tournament roster!
Antonia Delaere - Belgium
Early in the competition, Belgium suffered that shock loss to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Emma Meesseman started to carry the team with huge performances, while Julie Allemand and Kim Mestdagh chipped in as well. Heading into the last weekend the Cats ideally needed someone else to step up and Delaere delivered big-time. Excellent against Serbia in that heartbreaking Semi-Finals loss when she almost helped her team make the Final, she then shot the lights out in an 8 of 9 display to help Belgium land bronze against Belarus. Of course, Delaere does many more things on the floor and she continues to improve. It will be a huge bonus if she can carry this form and influence to Tokyo.
Tina Krajsinik - Serbia
While the swarming defense and pressing of the guards in particular was a feature of Serbia's ride to the top of the podium, the defense and physicality of Krajisnik was priceless. She fought so hard and was always sniffing out key rebounds. She finished as the leading rebounder for Serbia and shot the ball well too. The key though? She grabbed almost three steals per game and that is quite stunning for a center. Herreading of the game, quick hands and hustle was essential in her team taking gold.
Maria Vadeeva - Russia
We all know what Vadeeva is capable of numbers performance-wise, but this was the tournament when she showed she is the captain and leader outside of stellar production alone. With the last of Russia's vets more or less gone, she can command more respect from all her peers as captain and is the ideal centrepiece for this hungry and exciting team on the rise again. I watched after the epic Quarter-Finals loss to Belgium as this young role model went around her teammates, many of whom were crying, to comfort them. That was awesome maturity from someone who had more reason thany anyone else to be gutted at the defeat. Subsequently she kept her team calm in the big moments against Spain when Russia won to take 5th. She really is amazing.
Nevena Jovanovic -Serbia
If ever there was a player who underlined my persistent feeling that the concept and importance placed on the starting five in basketball is an absolute nonsense, it's Jovanovic. She highlights why it is the five on the court at the end of games or during tough moments that matter most. She did not have big stats for the champions, but she played really good defense and made some huge shots down the tournament stretch in the Quarter-Final and Semi-Final. When Marina Maljkovic needed her most trusted team on the floor to do the job at both ends of the court, she called on the guard - and rightly so.
Nina Glonti - Russia
Heading into the last five minutes of Russia's nail-biting fifth place game with Spain, a colleague asked how I thought things would pan out. I said that Glonti would probably make a big triple with 90 seconds to go and help Russia edge it. I was only 10-15 seconds out on my prediction. The point is that I could predict it with confidence at that time. Glonti can shoot, she is a new found 'X-Factor' and was my breakout performer of the competition on her debut. She has not played for anyone else but MBA Moscow at club level and had to learn international basketball on the job, with no previous experience. The big question is whether she can now sustain this level and improve even more, because for sure, she will be raised higher on her opponents' scouting report and so it will get tougher for her.
Nikolina Babic - Bosnia and Herzegovina
While all the headlines and noise concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina were understandably about the phenomenonal Jonquel Jones after her mind-blowing contributions, I am not convinced that the Balkan nation would have taken a fabulous fifth place without the cameos of Babic. Indeed in that famous first win of the competition against Belgium it was more than a cameo as she went a staggering 9 of 10 from the floor. The guard was excellent throughout with almost 14 points and 4 assists per game. I loved watching her play.
Alexandria Bentley - Belarus
The truth? I was never convinced about Bentley after debuting in 2017 and that continued until these last weeks. The guard has won me over with her displays, since this time around, she did a great job. She led the team, looked confident, executed that memorable game-winner against Spain on opening night and in general, showed a lot of class. Credit where it is due - especially as it was tough to choose which Belarusian player to include as her teammates Maryia Papova and Anastasiya Veremeyenka were also great.
Maryia Papova (BLR), Raisa Musina (RUS), Marica Gajic (BIH), Anastaisya Verameyenka (BLR), Astou Ndour (ESP).
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