|Born fighter Vasiliki Tarla wants Greece to retain their Division A status at the U18 European Championship Women 'no matter what'|
By Paul Nilsen
It was a case of mission accomplished last year for Vasiliki Tarla and Greece as they gained promotion to Division A of the U18 European Championship Women but now, it's simply a survival instinct which is beginning to kick in.
For this summer will bring an entirely new challenge as Greece prepares to forget about their silver medal success in Hungary and test themselves at a higher level, when they step out in Bucharest.
Not that Tarla and her team-mates will be fearful when they hit the floor in Romania - far from it in fact.
Although, perhaps inevitably, their first aim will be to ensure they maintain their status in the top flight.
"To get back in Division A after a long time means we are doing something right," insisted Tarla.
"In Hungary last year, we were determined to succeed and give our all. Our determination paid off and it was great for the team but for me especially, it was a dream come true.
"This year, our goal is to stay in the same category no matter what."
"We know it won't be easy because it's a very high level of game with some very strong teams," she acknowledged.
"Nobody knows what will happen at this U18 Championship but we will do our best at all costs to keep our team in Division A and to get the best result we can."
SECOND SUMMER ON DOUBLE DUTY
Tarla will certainly bring plenty to the table once again for Greece and while not known for putting up huge numbers, it's the all-round skills package and fiercely competitive qualities of the versatile small forward which stand out.
So much so, that she has already debuted at the U20 European Championship Division B - a couple of years ahead of schedule.
A few people may have initially raised their eyebrows at her inclusion but she played some effective cameos off the bench in Ohrid and left the F.Y.R. of Macedonia tournament having gained valuable experience.
"Firstly, it was an honour to be chosen to represent Greece at this level," she says.
"Also, to prove they made the right choice by letting me play on the team.
"Playing with older players was something I was afraid of in the beginning because they obviously have more experience than me," admitted Tarla.
"But, I wanted to show that in the game my age didn't matter."
Whilst it proved to be something of a personal triumph for the player herself, Greece didn't manage to find the same success and obtain promotion at U20 level too, although Tarla is hoping she will get the opportunity to put that right this year in Klatovy.
"The plan so far is for me to also go to the Czech Republic and getting the chance to play more at the U20 European Championship will be great experience for me," she confirms.
|Greece came close to earning promotion to Division A at the U20 European Championship last summer, but lost in the semi-final to eventual champions Sweden|
"But, it's definitely more important for the team as a whole to get the best result we can this time."
3ON3 AND KARATE
Further highlighting the skills and versatility of Tarla is the fact that she has already represented her country at the 3x3 Youth World Championship, in Italy.
Unsurprisingly she reflects on the event with considerable pride although typically of Tarla, it is the added team focus of the full version of the sport which still provides her with the most satisfaction.
"First of all, it was a wonderful and unique experience for me," she said.
"However, if I were to choose between 3on3 and 5on5, I would say 3on3 reminds me more of street basketball where you play in a small area and for me, the team isn't as connected as it is in 5on5 basketball.
"My best memory of Rimini was actually winning the gold medal in the three-point contest!"
Greece can also feel lucky to have a player in their ranks who stands toe-to-toe with any opponent when necessary. Her mental toughness certainly matches her skill-set and perhaps that has been instilled from an early age.
For Tarla found herself playing in an arctic climate as a small child and then also found that she had a natural talent for martial arts, which also led to her representing her country at youth level.
"I was born in Alaska and I lived there until I was five years old but we decided as a family to move back to Greece where my father is originally from," explained the forward.
"I really only started showing an interest in and playing basketball from the age of 11 or 12, because before this, I was part of the Greek National Karate team!
"However, my big passion is now definitely basketball and I will do my best to help my team get as far as they can in the game."
With her track record so far, dedication, passion and combative qualities, Greece could barely have anyone better to help their fight for Division A survival - or who knows, perhaps something considerably better?