Race for MVP : In The Paint

05 August 2009

by Paul Nilsen

The race for tournament MVP is getting almost as hot as the Naples weather with some really great performances right across the tournament. After passing the midway point of the Championships, we focus on the leading candidates who have really shined in and around the paint.

Artemis Spanou - Greece
This ‘Marathon Girl' has played more minutes than anyone else, no mean feat when you have a bigger frame than most to have to get up and down the court and in such oppressively warm conditions. However the center has remained physically strong to do a great job for her team and is averaging a double-double. Happy posting up and getting to the hoop or kicking the ball out, she is a really solid option and it is easy to see why she is relied upon so heavily.

8. Brigitta Barta (Hungary)
Brigitta Barta's outstanding performances were not enough too keep her team from falling into the classification round

Brigitta Barta - Hungary
On first impressions as she walks onto the court, she doesn't look like a player who can be dominant. However anything she lacks in her physical stature, she more than makes up for with her aggression. She bullies opponents into submission and gets to the hoop under pressure and usually scores or forces the foul. A natural scorer under the hoop she has been outstanding in almost every game and is a real miss for the Qualifying Round. Three double-doubles in four games and an average of 20.8 points and 12 rebounds tells the story.

Emma Meesseman - Belgium
A superb inside player, Meesseman is tall and athletic. This gives her the ability to block shots and at the time of writing, she is the leading player in that category with 3.2 per game. She is also a prolific rebounder and while she leads all of her competitors in total rebounding, her willingness to crash the boards on offence is particularly impressive and she manages to do this more than anybody else. Has also produced one of the most memorable plays of the tournament so far when against Italy, she leapt, ripped the ball out of the defenders hands and completed a great spin move. Averaging almost 15 points per game and the best finisher in the tournament, she is arguably the leading contender so far.

Christelle Diallo- France
She has shrugged off worries over an ankle injury earlier in the tournament to show she has some real class. Standing above most of her opponents, she is the focal point of the half court offence of the French team and is a capable scorer and finisher, often utilising her great strength and good eye for a put-back. However she needs to still maybe assert herself on the defensive glass to cement her place in any final tournament team.

15. Maryna Ivashchanka (Belarus)
Maryna Ivashchanka contributed big numbers to secure the Div A spot for her team

Maryna Ivashchanka - Belarus
During the initial group stages she was often the only option available for her team and yet despite defences swarming around her, she still excelled under that extreme pressure. Is a really great scorer, posting up relentlessly and getting inside. She could be described as maybe a little too one dimensional at times but to be fair, she is averaging almost 18 points per game so why change her game. Sometimes shows a reluctance to go after offensive rebounds which might seem harsh as she is fourth in the category but her weakness is definitely getting back on defence which means her defensive rebounding is almost non-existent for a player of her height.

Ivana Brajkovic - Serbia
A solid player who quietly goes about her business and rarely catches the eye but does a lot of dirty work under the boards for her team. Uses her size very well to manoeuvre cleverly into positions so she can efficiently box out on defence. This has proved to be critical for her team and she is also averaging a tournament double-double.

Ksenia Tikhonenko - Russia
Averaging 15 points and almost 10 rebounds per game is never easy. It is even more difficult when your coach has the philosophy of limiting the minutes of every player. Tikhonenko has been up and down but even if she ever drops below her highest standard it is still better than most. While Coach Arkhipova Von Kalmanovich protests that she does not have any stars, the fact that Russia went to Tikhonenko for more than half of their offences against Poland underlines her importance.

Honourable Mentions
Janniina Koivunen - Finland

Vita Zilinskaite - Lithuania

Ieva Kazlauskaite - Lithuania

Elin Gustavsson - Sweden

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