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06 - 09
February 2020
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Five must-watch players in Bourges

BOURGES (France) - Will it be all about the hosts and Australia at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Bourges, France or will there be a surprise - and who will be at the heart of it?

Here are five players who will be critical for their respective teams when the curtain is raised in France.

Marine Johannes – France

The Olympics will always hold a special place in the heart of any player who competes at the Games, but it was even more poignant for Johannes who made her senior tournament debut in Rio four years ago. It has been a whirlwind ever since, with the guard catapulting herself into the wider consciousness of women's hoops fans worldwide with her displays. She will carry much of the hopes of the home crowd as she returns to her former home floor in Bourges where the fans once worshiped her talents as a rising star.

An entertainer, difference-maker, momentum-shifter and 'X-Factor' player, Johannes can do some magical things with the ball in her hands. The stage is set and now that she has added WNBA experience to call upon, as well as a relative wealth of minutes in EuroLeague Women, she has to start imposing herself even more on games at the international level to solidify her status as a marquee player for France, who also have Paris 2024 at the back of their minds too.

Liz Cambage – Australia

Are we the only ones who think about the Opals' center with that court brush in Tenerife cleaning the floor or gesturing to the Australia text on her jersey when being jeered by the Spanish fans at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup? Her last outing on the global stage was deliciously entertaining as always and included some seriously impactful performances. She propelled the Opals to the Final by carrying them on her back in spectacular fashion and surely the same is going to happen again. Monstrous displays and numbers almost guaranteed, she is one of the best players of the modern era and seriously huge in stature both on and off the court. Can anybody live with her if she is fired up? Probably not. Plus, Cambage is synonymous with the Olympics after that historical dunk at London 2012 and the thought of not seeing the WNBA star stepping out in Tokyo would be a disappointment for the neutral.

Damiris Dantas – Brazil

With Brazil under pressure to continue their outstanding run of at least making it to the Olympics, they will need the skillful attributes and high production levels of the forward to come through in Bourges. Dantas has recently been playing in the WBKL in Korea and if Brazil are to make it to Tokyo so they can truly begin to erase the painful memory of that 0-5 record on home soil in Rio, she will be vital. The fact she was top scorer for her country in 2016 while dropping almost 17 points per game will have been of little consolation as the hosts signed off as the only winless nation along with Senegal. Dantas is the jewel in the Brazilian crown and had two excellent tournaments last year at the AmeriCup Women, helping her country to bronze, and then at the Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament. What is particularly impressive with Dantas isn't her regularly topping those scoring and/or rebounding charts; it is that she is even more regularly the most efficient performer. When you have a lot of the burden and responsibility to carry, that is quite something and underlines her class. This tournament is a big test for Brazil and if they are to pass, expect Dantas to be the one that drags them over the line.

Pamela Rosado – Puerto Rico

We hear you. Why have we not selected Jennifer O'Neill, who stars in EuroCup Women with Artego Bydgoszcz, or perhaps Jazmon Gwathmey, who has just signed with Geas Sesto San Giovanni in Italy? Well, this duo will be right at the top of the scouting reports of all the teams heading to Bourges and if Puerto Rico, as the underdogs, are to cause a major upset, someone has to step up out of the rest of the pack. Rosado could be the one to do it. She is a veteran and has experience from the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup. She will be expected to be the main creator and vitally, if she deals with the ball pressure and keeps her composure, Puerto Rico can stay in contention for longer. Importantly she will arrive in Bourges brimming with confidence, since in the Pre-Qualifying tournament last year, she reminded us of what is possible by not only leading the way in assists with 4.0 per game, but also finishing as top scorer for her country. That level of performances is a must for Puerto Rico to realize their OIympic dreams.

Alexia Chartereau - France

So here's the deal - when it comes to France, everyone understandably points to Marine Johannes as the main reference point. Yet there is strong evidence to show that it is Chartereau who has been the better and most consistent performer in the last 6-12 months or so. She really has been on fire and having been deservedly named the EuroLeague Women Young Player of the Year for 2018-19, she has continued the momentum with both club and country. The beauty for French fans is that she offers such a nice one-two punch with her former Bourges colleague and they always seem to share such great chemistry. Chartereau will be looking forward to this one for multiple reasons, not least that she will get to potentially experience the joy of securing a place to Tokyo on her home floor at Le Prado. With Rio 2016 having come just too soon for her, it would open the door to that Olympic debut. Chartereau is a top-drawer player. Her extended shooting range makes her a tough assignment for any defender, while she always looks absolutely unflappable in terms of her temperament. The locals will be cheering nobody else quite as loudly as Chartereau, so expect her to embrace that energy and show why the 21-year-old is one of the finest young talents in Europe – and maybe even globally.