|10 July 2011|
U20 Women Feature
For most of the Spain squad, playing at the U20 European Championship Women in Serbia might feel like a long trip away.
For Leonor Rodriguez, joining up with her international team-mates is "like coming home".
The 1.81m guard broke into the Gran Canaria senior squad when she was just 16, gaining experience in the EuroCup Women in both 2008 and 2009.
She was not just making up the numbers either, as she averaged 7.2 points per game in her first season alone.
But then she made a life-changing decision and opted to go to the United States to continue her development at Florida State.
"I really, really enjoy my life over in America, but I'm very glad to be at this tournament because when I get back with the team it's just like coming home," Rodriguez said.
"It was a hard decision for me to go, but I wanted to keep growing as a person and a student as well as a player, and being over there is bringing me new things."
Rodriguez believes the college game is more physical and aggressive than the European one, but adds that there is probably more refinement to the way it is played on the continent, something she has to keep in mind when she comes back home.
"In Europe, the game is more in the players' heads, it's more about moving the ball and seeing more than just the basket in front of you," she said.
While she is enjoying life playing for the Seminoles, Rodriguez admits there is plenty she misses about home.
"For sure, I miss my family, definitely the food, and the atmosphere and style of life," she said."But I love my life over there too. You can say good things about both."
Those little pangs of homesickness Rodriguez sometimes feels are what make these summers with the national team so important to her.
She also has a growing reputation to live up to, as she has averaged double-digit scoring at the last four youth tournaments she has played in for Spain, from the U16 European Championship Women back in 2007 through to last year's U20 event, where Spain took silver.
"I just want to contribute to my team," she said. "Of course, I want to do my best on the court, but I also want to share my happiness with the rest of the team too."
A perfect run through Group D has demonstrated that last year's runners-up will be contenders again this time around.
"We have started very well, but we're trying not to think too far ahead," Rodriguez said. "We are just taking it step by step and not thinking further than the next game."