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Women commentary teams chart new territory at FIBA Women's Continental Cups 2021
MIES (Switzerland) - International basketball takes an exciting new path this summer as women are to serve as both play-by-play and color commentators at the FIBA Women's Continental Cups 2021.
At the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021, which is being staged in Valencia, Spain, and Strasbourg, France, from June 17 to June 27, three former players that have plenty of experience behind the mic for national team games will be on duty. They are former international players Shona Thorburn (Canada), Tereza Brantlova (Czech Republic) and Azania Stewart (Great Britain).
At the FIBA Women's AmeriCup in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which tips off on Friday and lasts until the Final on Saturday, June 19, are Orlando-based broadcast journalist Despina Barton and Natalia Melendez, a former Puerto Rico national team player.
Stewart did color analysis at the FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2019 in Dakar, Senegal
There will also be women play-by-play and color commentators at the FIBA Women's AfroBasket (Sept. 17 - Sept. 26) and FIBA Women's Asia Cup (Sept. 26 - Aug. 3).
"I've played in three EuroBaskets (2011, 2013 and 2015) and am commentating in my first, which is such an honor," Stewart said. "I always watch it every year because it's such exciting basketball.
"Playing in it, I didn't realize how great of a tournament it was until 2013 when we got some really good wins (in France), and 2015 it was Hungary and my dad got to come out."
Thorburn represented Canada at numerous FIBA Women's AmeriCups in her career, the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2014. Now she is an assistant coach for recently crowned French league champions, Basket Landes.
The former point guard has another job. She's a commentator.
Thorburn and France's Celine Dumerc commentated at FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019
She did color at the FIBA Women's EuroBaskets in 2017 (Czech Republic) and 2019 (Serbia), at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 in Spain, at the men's FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China and at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2020 in Bourges.
Thorburn is now transitioning to play-by-play. At the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 in Strasbourg, she will work with color commentator Brantlova before traveling to Valencia and doing play-by-play for both Semi-Finals, the Third-Place Game and the Final. She is teaming up in Spain with Stewart, who is doing color commentary for all the games in Valencia.
"I'm really excited to be back at my third straight EuroBasket event," Thorburn said. "Like most people in the world, I really missed watching national team and high-level basketball last year because of the postponed Olympics and now I'm fired up for not only a high-level tournament but to see some potential Olympic matchups, which could happen later this year."
Indeed, Belgium, France, Serbia and Spain will all play at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket and also at the Tokyo Games (July 26 to Aug. 8).
Brantlova did color commentary at the last two FIBA Women's EuroBaskets
Brantlova, who captained the Czech Republic when they captured the 2001 World Championship for Junior Women title and was the event's top three-point shooter, commentated at the last two FIBA Women's EuroBaskets in Prague and Riga, respectively, and also at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 in Tenerife, the FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017 in Bamako and the men's FIBA AfroBasket 2017 in Tunis.
Brantlova (her married name is Brantl-Budd), loves being around the game.
"Basketball has been a huge part of my life," she said. "Seeing and analyzing the game of the best teams in Europe is so exciting and to work at the premier women's event in Europe is a pleasure and joy.
"The game is dynamic, intense and emotional with young talents stepping up, legends leading their teams, coaches timing the best game plans... all for their countries and in a wonderful atmosphere.
"I can't see anything better than that."
Great Britain international Stewart was a fearless competitor
Stewart, who in addition to the three FIBA Women's EuroBaskets also competed at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, first did color commentary at the FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2019 in Senegal and next at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2020 in Belgrade. She was also the FIBA Twitch host for the 2021 EuroLeague Women Final Four.
"I'm honored to be able to stay in the game but on the other side of basketball and to see some of the girls that I came up with on different teams," Stewart said. "It's one of the greatest tournaments for women's basketball, it's so competitive and such a high level. You see great performances, different skill and a high level of basketball."
Melendez, an experienced commentator, did color at the FIBA Women's AmeriCup 2019
At the FIBA Women's AmeriCup in San Juan, Puerto Rico, there is no better person to serve as a color commentator than Melendez. She had the role at the last edition and will bring plenty of insight as a former player.
Barton will be making her debut in international hoops. She has done play-by-play for American Athletic Conference Women's Basketball games on ESPN3 and has commentating experience in other sports like volleyball and softball.
"It is an absolute privilege to be partnering up with the extremely talented Natalia Melendez to call the FIBA Women's AmeriCup 2021," Barton said.
Barton (right) will be the FIBA Women's AmeriCup play-by-play commentator in San Juan
"I'm excited to get back in the booth and be a part of history, as together we will be the first all-female commentator team for this event."