Five That Shined

21 July 2008
With the preliminary round of the U18 European Championship for Women over, this is a good time to take a look back at the players who shined the brightest and will be worth keeping an eye on throughout the rest of the tournament.

In no particular order, here are the five that raised eyebrows.

Ol'Ha Maznichenko (Ukraine)- 23.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

The 17-year-old had 33 points in her team's opening win against Romania on Friday and 32 to hand the host nation Slovak Republic their first loss of the competition on Sunday.

She had a quiet game in a loss to the Czech Republic which further proves the point that how Maznichenko goes is more often than not how her team goes too.

The 1.86m forward has a versatile game and can score at will. She can overpower her way inside just as easily as she can hit shots from the perimeter, with range extending to the three-point line.

And Maznichenko is not one to shy away from doing the dirty work either. She often dives to the floor for loose balls, fights crowds for rebounds and takes all the hits in an attempt to get a shot off and/or draw fouls.

Aurime Rinkeviciute (Lithuania)
Aurime Rinkeviciute of Lithuania has been impressive in all phases of the game.
Aurime Rinkeviciute (Lithuania)-
21.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

The Lithuanian guard has the most impressive stats line after the tournament's opening phase. She ranks second in scoring, third in rebounding and ninth in assists.

Her scoring and ball distribution aside, what has made her stand out is her outstanding job on the boards, especially playing alongside Giedre Paugaite who averages a tournament-best 14.7 rebounds per contest.

Rinkeciviute's only downside is a relatively high turnover ratio (6.3 per game) and a tendency to take two many threes (only three makes out of 12 attempts in the win against Italy on Sunday).

She does however make up for the latter somewhat with her aggressiveness, getting to the line on average seven times a game.

Allison Vernerey (France)- 13.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.

If this list was based merely on statistics, the 1.91m centre might not have made the cut.

But it is because of her demeanour and how well she fits into her team's system that Vernerey stands out from just about every other player.

Head coach Gregory Halin has a strong pool of talented scorers to choose from - Diandra Tchatchouang, Margaux Okou Zouzouo and Mdelome Menedou - and therefore doesn't need his centre to play in the low post every time down the court, trying to get easy baskets.

Instead, he likes to run a high-post offense through his captain and results will show it has worked wonders as France have won each of their first three games by 30 points or more.

Vernerey does an outstanding job at the defensive end. While she may not block many shots, her long wing-span often proves too tough for opponents to get a good shot around.

Giedre Paugaite (Lithuania)- 12.3 points, 14.7 rebounds, 3.7 blocks and 3.0 assists per game.

Paugaite deserves as much - if not more - credit as Rinkeviciute for Lithuania's success as the 1.92m centre has been an anchor on the defensive end, the side of the court where all good things begin for Ramune Kumpiene's side.

As mentioned earlier on, Paugaite leads all players in rebounds per game as well as blocks (3.3) while also stearing clear of foul trouble.

So it's an added bonus that she can regularly contribute 10-12 points and shows a high IQ on offense, contributing 3.0 assists per game.

She is the only player to have registered a double-double in all three games so far.

Klaudia Lukacovicova (Slovak Republic)- 16.0 poins, 10.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.7 blocks per game.

Fans of the host nation who have attended games in Nitra should feel they are getting their money's worth every time Lukacovicova steps out on the court.

The 1.93m centre has been the team's most reliable player so far, scoring, rebounding and doing just about everything that is needed or expected of her for her team to prevail.

She ranks inside the tournament's top 10 in scoring (6th), rebounding (4th) and blocks (4th).

The 17-year-old has had the hot hand, shooting 57.6 per cent from two-point range (7th) as well as an impressive 83.3 per cent from the charity stripe (5th).

Special mentions:

Veronika Cernakova (Slovak Republic) 18.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 steals.
Stefanie Yderstrom (Sweden) 15.7 points, 4.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals.
Olivia Tomialowicz (Poland) 21.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
Mia Carapina (Croatia) 15.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 1.3 blocks.
Ozge Yavas (Turkey) 14.0 points, 3.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds.

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