PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Valeriane Ayayi took part in an exclusive FIBA Europe photoshoot in Orchies, France alongside the final weekend of EuroBasket Women 2013.
Photographer: Elio Castoria
French teenager Valeriane Ayayi (vote for her now as Player of the Year) could barely have dreamed of a more fruitful or exciting calendar year than the one which unfolded during 2013.
Whilst she had already made a splash after a string of excellent performances during the first few months of her debut season at Basket Landes, Ayayi had no idea she had catapulted herself onto the main radar of Pierre Vincent.
Her confident and assured displays both in the LFB and EuroCup Women had the former Les Bleues play-caller sitting up and taking notice.
Ayayi was thrilled to be named in the preliminary squad list and having what at the time, looked to be an outside shot of making the roster for EuroBasket Women 2013.
As Vincent subsequently made the necessary cuts during the preparation period, Ayayi continued to survive and it culminated in her being handed a surprise spot in the final twelve.
The youngster had to initially pinch herself, but when the time came, she stepped out at the tournament and claimed a silver medal.
It also meant participating in one of the most absorbing and entertaining games in women's basketball history.
"My best memory of 2013 was that quarter-final against Sweden," stated the forward.
"It was an amazing game."
Ayayi simply tried soaking up every last second during her first major tournament - both on the floor and in the locker room.
The experience of those highs and lows, along with playing alongside some of the best players in Europe added even more credence to her status as a team leader when participating at the U19 World Championship for Women in Lithuania.
Whilst gold eluded Ayayi again, she got to play in another showpiece Final and began to put the ghost of the EuroBasket Final to bed.
"My other favourite moment was the semi-final with the U19 national team against Spain, because it was revenge for what happened in the final with the seniors," she admitted.
With two silver medals in her pocket, she then got the news that she had been shortlisted for the prestigious FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year Award - another reason to look back with considerable satisfaction.
"I am really happy to be nominated on this list - it's an honour for me," she said with a smile.
"The year has been very good and this nomination is like we always say in France, ‘the cherry on the cake' for me."
She is joined on the list of potential award winners by fellow rising star and Basket Landes team-mate, Olivia Epoupa who also played at the U19 FIBA World Championship.
But far from competition between the pair, Ayayi is just proud they have both been selected and can proudly fly the flag that little bit higher in what has been a big year for basketball in France.
"Oh, we really don't think about this (rivalry), but it's great for her too," declared the Bordeaux native.