|07 July 2011|
|Sabine Niedola is a strong physical forward who dominated in previous youth European Championships|
As the U20 European Championship Women tips off in Serbia, FIBA Europe - with the help of Great Britain coach Damian Jennings - takes a look at some key players to watch in Novi Sad and Zrenjanin.
1. Sabine Niedola, Latvia, Small Forward
Niedola arrives in Serbia straight from having played with the senior team at the EuroBasket Women in Poland last month - the only player here to have been at that tournament. The Nantes Reze forward averaged 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game with the seniors, and had 16.9 ppg at the U20 tournament a year ago.
"She's an athletic scorer who is very smart and although she has been away from the U20s during preparations, her senior team experience will no doubt offer a leadership personality to a youthful team," Jennings said.
2. Olesia Malashenko, Ukraine, Forward/Center
Malashenko also brings EuroBasket Women experience to her team, having been blooded with limited minutes at the 2009 tournament in Latvia. Unusually for a player at this level, Malashenko already has three years of professional experience, and demonstrated her talents by averaging 11.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game with Arras in the EuroCup Women this past season. She was also the star player on the Ukraine team at this tournament last year, averaging 17.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
3. Sara Krnjic, Serbia, Center
|Sara Krnjic already has three seasons in the EuroLeague Women under her belt|
Krnjic should have the home fans on her side more than any other player as a native of Novi Sad. The 19-year-old boasts EuroLeague Women experience after averaging 4.8 points and 5.3 rebounds a game for Pecs in the competition this past season, while she demonstrated her potential in this tournament last year by averaging 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds despite being one of the youngest players on court.
4. Alina Iagupova, Ukraine, Guard
The top scorer at last summer's U18 tournament with an outstanding 32.6 ppg, Iagupova has unusual strength for a guard and an ability to turn in explosive performances game after game. She has already turned out for the seniors, averaging 6.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in qualifying for the EuroBasket Women. With guard a weakness for Ukraine, they will be relying on Iagupova heavily, and know they have a player able to carry the load.
"She is a dominant scorer who will be incredibly hard to guard and she's probably the most physically tough player in the tournament," said Jennings.
5. Leonor Rodriguez, Spain, Guard
Rodriguez was playing EuroCup Women basketball for her hometown team of Gran Canaria at the age of 16 but then opted for the college route in the United States, and will begin her junior season at Florida State after this tournament. She has averaged double-digit scoring in her last three youth tournaments, scoring at a rate of 11 per game with 5.1 rebounds in last summer's U20 event.
6. Temi Fagbenle, Great Britain, Forward/Center
Born in the United States to Nigerian-born British citizens, Fagbenle had her choice of nations to represent and the British are delighted she picked them. She has now returned to the country of her birth to hone her game, and rose to be ranked among the top 25 players in America as she mulled her college choices, eventually settling on Harvard. Still only 18, Fagbenle boasts a 1.82m wingspan and an attitude to match, and she should be a key component for the Brits as they compete at this level for the first time.
"She may have had an injury and be on limited minutes, but she is a prospect for the future," Jennings said. "She is a very athletic, physical player who holds a very competitive mental toughness - she finds a way to score!"