|15 August 2012|
U20 WOMEN DIVISION B
The stage is set in Klatovy for the U20 European Championship Women Division B with nine teams all pitched together in a round-robin group to fight it out for three golden tickets to the top flight.
|Returning Sonia Ursu carries the hopes for Romania|
Romania was relegated from Division A last summer in Novi Sad after two consecutive years in the top flight.
Their prospects of a quick return will rest on the shoulders of Sonia Ursu who played last summer and led the team in rebounds, assists and steals.
She tore it up at the U18 European Championship Women too last year and can now also count on experience at the senior level having briefly tasted court-time during the EuroBasket Women Qualification Round earlier this summer.
Germany was the other team that suffered relegation from the top division and they too will want to bounce straight back.
Sonja Greinacher will again be the focal point of the team having averaged a near tournament double-double last time out while also preparing with the senior team for the EuroBasket Women Qualification Round.
Stepping up from the U18 level is 1993 born Laura Hebecker who has impressed during preparation games.
Belgium was expected to be one of the favourites to gain promotion and make a jump back to Division A. Many fans had hoped when the action started, the team would be made up of the core players who landed an historic gold medal at the U18 European Championship Women in Oradea last summer.
However, there is bad news for Belgium who won't have a number of big hitters to call upon, including FIBA Europe Young Women's Player Of The Year Emma Meesseman who will be focusing on pre-season preparations for her first year in the French league.
Stand-out guard Julie Vanloo is unfortunately injured, Lynn Delvaux is unavailable and Antonia Delaere needs a well-earned rest after an exhausting and disappointing relegation to Division B at the recent U18 European Championship Women in Bucharest.
Belgium will therefore be hoping the likes of shooting guard Emmanuella Mayombo will be stepping out and firing on all cylinders.
|Hristina Tyutyundzhieva is expected to be a major presence under the baskets for Bulgaria|
Bulgaria will spend a second tournament participating in Division B having previously been a top tier nation for five consecutive years.
A significant blow to their promotion prospects or even just improving their finish of eighth spot last year is that they had to wave goodbye to the all-action Tsvetromira Sharenkapova who was their marquee player.
Shooting guard Iva Kostova is likely to provide some of the scoring which has been lost while Hristina Tyutyundzhieva is capable of stepping up and doing a good job on the glass with her shot-blocking abilities also likely to come in useful.
The Czech Republic and Greece both suffered the agony of missing out on promotion last summer after losing their respective semi-final games.
Greece in particular went down in agonising fashion with a 72-70 loss to Sweden despite having the tournament MVP Artemis Spanou.
If she can return to provide anywhere near her 20 points and 10 rebounds per game then Greece will certainly have another great chance of getting close and maybe even booking their place in Division A.
Especially with playmaker Georgia Kantara who averaged over three assists per game and also the versatile Anthoula Chatzigiakoumi. All three were also part of the Greece team that won promotion from the U18 European Championship Women Division B last year.
Tournament hosts Czech Republic meanwhile could find it more difficult since their two most prominent performers have finished their youth careers.
Indeed both Alena Hanusova and Lenka Bartakova were so impressive that senior national team coach Lubor Blazek opted to take them both in his 12 player roster to the London Olympics.
Two returnees from Ohrid last summer will be forward duo Barbora Kasparkova who gained some useful EuroLeague Women experience with Frisco Brno last season and also Karolina Elhotova.
Unfortunately of the 1993 and 1994 generations capable of stepping up, it looks like standout talent Tereza Vyoralova won't make it.
Hungary could be something of a dark horse since while they finished a rock solid but very middle of the road sixth last summer, they have a huge amount of continuity and chemistry to rely on since they were predominantly a 1992 born team.
Even the loss of 1991 born top scorer and rebounder Reka Balint shouldn't hurt them too much now they are all a year stronger with Anna Mansare capable of doing a good job in the paint alongside the rebounding presence of Krisztina Velkey.
In the backcourt, Noemi Czirjak should be the player tasked to run the team after a strong showing at the U18 European Championship Women Division B last year.
|Israel hope that Bar Galinski can repeat her great performances from last summer|
Bar Galinski was phenomenal for Israel last summer, averaging a tournament double-double but that wasn't even the highlight since she was also called to the senior national team.
If she is healthy and firing on all cylinders she can really help Israel to improve on their fifth place finish while Inbar Lev Ron is an impressive guard who should pull the strings offensively and come up with vital defensive plays.
Last but not least, Switzerland is back after a five year absence at the U20 European Championship Women level which ties nicely into their encouraging display at senior level during EuroBasket Women qualifying.
During that Qualification Round, Switzerland included the likes of small forward Melissa Favre and she will be in Klatovy to help her team.
Dorethee Studer could be the one to get the scoreboard moving since the guard poured in almost 13 points per game last season in the Swiss league.