Everything you need to know about the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup 2017
UDINE/CIVIDALE DEL FRIULI (FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup 2017) - We give you a quick-fire lowdown on each of the teams competing in the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup 2017.
They’re gunning for seven titles in a row and the champions look as strong as ever. What else do you need to know? Only who is likely to lead them to more golden glory and that starts with Crystal Dangerfield in the backcourt and there is previous global title experience in the likes of the powerful Joyner Holmes who has won the FIBA U17 Women's World Championship. They're runaway favorites and last missed gold in 2001 - when the great Diana Taurasi was on board.
The hosts will try to get the locals in Udine excited and while it could be hard to make a deep run with younger players on board, they are the type of team that can lock down opponents defensively and gut-out results. The draw hasn't been kind to them, but they have two star performers under the hoop in Olbis Futo Andre and Lorela Cubaj while Martina Fassina has played more than 20 minutes per game in the Italian top flight last season. Yes, there's hope.
The anticipated 'twin towers' has become a solitary one after Li Yueru was drafted up by the senior team for the FIBA Asia Cup Women 2017 in Bengaluru. But Xu Han will be there to tower over her team-mates. Wang Jiaqi is an entertaining guard and both players underpinned a Semi-Final finish in Zaragoza last year at the FIBA U17 Women's World Championship. The Asian U18 champs are on the rise!
Unbeaten at the FIBA U18 AfroBasket Women last summer and a dominant force in their own region, this group of players also made some serious noise in Zaragoza. So much so that the younger players eligible at U17 level last year posted the best-ever result by an African nation in a global competition with a historical three wins. That was built on the brilliant Salimatou Kourouma who averaged a tournament double-double. This team can play and might not be pushovers!
Back after a 12-year hiatus from the competition, they're looking to cause some upsets after reaching the Semi-Finals at last year's FIBA Americas U18 Women's Championship. Angelique Rodriguez will add a scoring touch and the passing skills of Giolibeth Perez could be a major highlight as they try to punch way above their weight on only their second global youth outing!
They made the Final at the previous edition on home soil and had been expected to struggle at this tournament. But, the unexpected early exit of the senior team at FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 has changed the dynamics completely. Both Maria Vadeeva and Raisa Musina are re-installed and arguably the best frontcourt in the tournament now re-ignites Russia's ambitions.
They are no strangers to this competition and while they drew a blank at the last edition as the only nation not to register a victory, they should not be taken lightly. They took silver at the U18 AfroBasket Women last year on home soil in Cairo. In Meral Abdelgawad they have one of their best ever talents, someone who can help them perhaps register a triumph this time.
On paper at least, it doesn't look like this Spanish side can get the country back on the podium for the first time since 2011 when they completed back-to-back Final appearances. Backing against the tradition of Spain isn't a smart move - even if they don't have the huge stars of the past such as Olympians Astou Ndour and Marta Xargay. But Paula Ginzo is a leader along and Aina Ayuso is talented too, while Spain also made the U18 Final last year in Europe.
There is hype around the inclusion of Laeticia Amihere after her sensational tournament double-double at the FIBA U17 Women's World Championship. She can live up to the billing with her tremendous athletic ability, while Alyssa Jerome is a smart and do-it-all forward to be watched too. The job for Canada is to change the direction of travel at this event, with their Semi-Finals spot in 2009 having been followed by a 5th, 7th and 8th place finish.
If there is one team to follow in this competition then it might just be debutantes Latvia, who will parade one of their most talented generations. The centerpiece is the Syracuse-bound Digna Strautmane, who was superb at the recent FIBA U20 Women's European Championship. Also look out for Aleksa Gulbe and Luize Septe, because if they all play to their full potential, the sky is the limit for this team.
Normally the European champions come as favorites to try and push for a medal, but the absence of MVP Alexia Chartereau leaves a void that can't be filled. She was so good that she got to play in the Final of FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017. But France will still be solid and competitive, with players such as Kadiatou Sissoko, Tima Pouye and the powerful Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi having the skills to secure a last eight slot.
Another team reeling from the absence of their marquee star are Korea, who will be ruing the fact that Park Jisu is not with the team. But the phenomenal center has to take her nation into the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2017. Luckily there is a talent pool of other capable performers such as Lee Juyeon that can carry some of the weight.
Another nation in the mould of Latvia when it comes to having the capacity to make an impact and turn some heads, you should be excited about many of Hungary's leading stars. Reka Lelik is a stellar talented player who led her team in points and assists on home soil in Sopron last year at U18 level, while Dorka Juhaz is a highly rated forward attracting a lot of attention too. That is real cause for optimism as Hungary make their return after least featuring back in 2005.
They have to be genuine contenders for this competition and for a podium step. Especially since the core of the squad's memorable and historic golden moment in Zaragoza last year - when the Sapphires won the FIBA U17 Women's World Championship for the first time - is set to return. Even if they are young, they can help the Gems shine. Eziyda Magbegor was MVP in Spain and is a special athlete, while they have an array of other scorers including the likes of Jasmine Simmons.
Always one of the most fun and entertaining teams at this event, they are back after missing out in 2015 and at their previous two appearances they made the Quarter-Finals. A similar result would be welcome for a nation that loves explosive shooting from the perimeter and the fast-break. It helps to now have Stephanie Mawuli add strength under the bucket too, with Izumi Abe pulling the strings in the backcourt.
They received a late invitation and that means a historic first footstep at the event, having only previously appeared on a global stage at the FIBA U17 Women's World Championship in both 2014 and 2017. This additional exposure will be useful in the medium to long term, with Mexico looking to cause a big surprise. For that to happen, they need Ornella Rivera to have a huge tournament and for the supporting cast to produce.