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Six players who could breakout at the Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament
TOKYO (Japan) - The success or failure of every nation at the FIBA Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament at Tokyo 2020 won't just rely on its respective headline stars.
Many teams will be relying on various players to post a breakout performance on the biggest stage to fuel their ambitions. Here are six ballers to look out for, who could all potentially give their country an extra edge if they manage to turn up the dial on the court - and it is not just the rising stars. You can also check out the top 10 young guns to watch at the FIBA Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament HERE.
Bridget Carleton - Canada
Height: 1.85m / 6ft 1in
Date of Birth: May 22, 1997
Always a strong presence for her country at FIBA youth events, Carleton made her senior debut at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018, but understandably as a young player, only received a handful of minutes. That was not the case last year at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in Ostend when she logged 25 minutes per outing. However, while Canada won the event and impressively beat both Japan and Belgium, Carleton didn't shoot particularly well.
Last month, she decided not to participate at the FIBA Women's Americup, instead continuing to play with the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA. Canada slumped to fourth place and now it is essential that they show their true face in Tokyo. For that to happen, it feels like Carleton needs to being her 'A-Game'. The small forward has the capacity to be a leading conributor and now 24-years-old, it feels like it is time for her to make a splash.
Maite Cazorla - Spain
Height: 1.78m / 5ft 10in
Date of Birth: June 18, 1997
Last month, Cazorla played for Spain for the first time at a senior tournament as she stepped out at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket. It was a bitter-sweet experience on home soil, with her nation relinquishing their title and finishing in 7th place. However, on the flip-side, the guard can take great pride in her individual performances and growth during the competition. She showed head coach Lucas Mondelo she is ready for a bigger role in Tokyo, signing off with 19 points against Russia and only spilling the ball four times in the entire tournament.
As she gets ready to make her global debut, there is also the added incentive of posting a strong display in the Japanese capital because the liklihood is Spain won't participate at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup, since they need to win the Olympic title to make it to Australia.
Alanna Smith - Australia
Height: 1.90m / 6ft 3in
Date of Birth: September 10, 1996
Three years ago, Smith was handed a senior global debut at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup and that was richly deserved after success at youth level for her country. She had the thrill of helping Australia to make the Final of the competition in Tenerife. She did well on debut, posting a double digit score in the title game against USA and overall being handed 15 minutes per game. Since then, she missed the FIBA Women's AsiaCup 2019 and also the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament last year.
So, it's time for the Phoenix Mercury to remind everyone of her quality and considering she is only 24-years-old still - her potential. Especially on the international stage. With Liz Cambage absent, the Opals are looking for the rest of their frontline to step up - including Smith. Opportunity knocks and very, very loudly!
Dayshalee Salaman - Puerto Rico
Height: 1.65m / 5ft 5in
Date of Birth: March 17, 1990
What a story. What a roller-coaster of emotion. Salaman rejoiced with everyone else when Puerto Rico booked their spot at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Bourges last year with a famous and pivotal overtime win against Brazil. Only she then suffered a serious injury which meant months on the sidlines and looked to have shattered her Olympic dreams. As she vigoruously told everyone she was still going to take part, COVID-19 expanded into a pandemic and the Games were postponed.
Now fully recovered, Salaman can take part and will want to make every last second she has on court count more than ever due to this back story. She could be someone that can use it to raise her game and keep Puerto Rico competitive. Handing out 4 assists per game at the recent FIBA Women's Americup, the guard has what it takes to turn the screw and make an added contribution in Tokyo.
Jana Raman - Belgium
Height: 1.86m / 6ft 1in
Date of Birth: February 15, 1991
One of the most improved players around and a total unsung hero for Belgium, Raman has come alive as a late bloomer for her country. The Cats lost her for the recent FIBA Women's EuroBasket after the forward sustained a freak injury shortly before the tournament started. While they still took a bronze medal, had Raman been in the rotation and locking down her role as one of the first go-to options off the bench, then who knows? She could have been a difference-maker.
That is why, with her back on board again, she has the capacity to show her value again in a big way. Raman is a fighter, a hard worker, but also has such a nice feel for the team concept and passing game that Belgium employs. She is a key link and has worked out how to score on the big stage in the past couple of years which is an added bonus.
Napheesa Collier - USA
Height: 1.86m / 6ft 1in
Date of Birth: September 23, 1996
Everyone already knows what she can do because of her performances at club level where she has starred for the Minnesota Lynx and has been pouring in more than 17 points per game. Meanwhile on the international stage, the winger was part of the young USA team that recently won the FIBA Women's Americup title. Having managed to hold on to her spot for Tokyo, Collier is about to step out at her first global senior tournament and that is a huge thing as she chases gold alongside A'Ja Wilson, who she played with at the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup in 2016. Seeing more USA players transitioning from FIBA youth events to senior action is great to see and now she has the chance to show her skills on the biggest stage of all. It will be interesting to see how many minutes and how much of an opportunity she is given by head coach Dawn Staley. But if a breakout tournament doesn't happen this time around, then surely Collier is a lock to be a leading influence at next year's FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Australia.