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22 September
01 October, 2022
3 Sika Kone (MLI)
20/01/2022
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Five fantastic young guns to watch at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournaments

SYDNEY (Australia) - There will be plenty of rising stars looking to impress at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournaments in Belgrade, Osaka, and Washington DC.

Considering all players 2000 born or younger, here's merely a selection of some of the burgeoning talent to look out for, including  two ballers who already have FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup debuts on their resume from 2018 in Tenerife (ESP).

Sika Kone - Mali

POWER FORWARD

Height: 6'3" (1.90m) 
Date of Birth: July 13, 2002 (19 years old)

An absolute best at youth level where she has shown her incredible strength in the paint and associated scoring and rebounding power, Kone was phenomenal at the FIBA Women's U19 Basketball World Cup last year in Debrecen. She inspired her nation to a historic Semi-Finals spot with some epic contributions. She's so good that it was the second time she had appeared at the event. 

A few months later, Kone was doing the business for Mali at senior level and helping them make the Final of the FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2021 where they added a ticket to the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament to their silver medal. With another six months or so of development under her belt, she can be even more of an influence. It would be staggering if she was not a WNBA 2022 First Round draft pick.

But first, we'll get to see her in action at the Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade.

Iliana Rupert - France

CENTER

Height: 6'4" (1.94M)
Date of Birth: July 12, 2001 (20 years old)

The center is a young player who already has the kudos from being a WNBA First Round Draft pick, gaining that distinction last year. It feels like Rupert has been on the radar forever as she has already done so many great things and successfully proved her value at the senior level in the wake of a scorching youth career in a French jersey.

A two-time EuroLeague Women Young Player of the year, the Bourges standout has already been featured at two editions of the FIBA Women's EuroBasket and added two silver medals to her collection. Even if it was tough to find any significant minutes last year because of the form of veteran duo Sandrine Gruda and Endy Miyem, she still managed to impress and can reflect on an Olympic debut and a podium finish after picking up bronze at the Tokyo Olympics. Super smart, highly skilled and with good composure, she is set to be a go-to and dominant player for France in future years.

Park JiHyun - Korea

GUARD / SMALL FORWARD

Height: 6'1" (1.85M)
Date of Birth: April 07, 2000 (21 years old)

Just 18-years-old when she made her global tournament debut for Korea at the 2018 edition of the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup, she barely featured. However, hopes were always very high that she could excel and while she has not yet peaked, the signals are that she can be a leading light for Korea in future tournaments.

She played at the Tokyo Olympics and also at the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2021 last year, showing promise in both tournaments and also impressive consistency. She managed to average 8.0 points per game in both competitions and 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per outing, too. Now she looks ready to potentially turn up the noise and could become even more prominent as Korea look to advance and continue punching at the global level.

Maxuella Lisowa Mbaka - Belgium

FORWARD

Height: 5'10" (1.78M)
Date of Birth: May 14, 2001 (20 years old)

The versatile Lisowa Mbaka is rising to prominence rapidly and recently posted some stellar performances in EuroCup Women with club side Castors Braine. This is something that will no doubt give herself and the recently appointed national team head coach, Valery Demory, confidence that she is ready to show what she can do on the big stage.

So far, she has only had limited opportunities at senior level, but got to play in both of last November's FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers which means she is moving in a positive direction. Lisowa Mbaka initially made made a big breakthrough at the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup 2019 in Bangkok with some excellent showings.

Li Yuan - China

GUARD

Height: 5'7" (1.70M)
Date of Birth: May 29, 2000 (21 years old)

With some brilliant frontcourt and wing stars, China are loaded in the 3-5 spots but there is still something of a question mark over their backcourt and playmaking capabilities at the highest level. That is why despite being only 21-years-old, Li is having to perform like a veteran playmaker when she is on the floor to try and catapult her nation towards success. 

Debuting at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in 2018, her second global competition was at the Tokyo Olympics, although perhaps didn't play fully to her potential..The good news for fans of China basketball is that she responded with a much better tournament in Jordan at the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2021 where she averaged 5.0 assists per game.

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