EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
|Leonor Rodriguez has just completed a successful college career and will now be hoping to pull on the national vest of Spain|
By Paul Nilsen
The big question hanging over Spain remains whether head coach Lucas Mondelo will choose the right blend of youth and experience during coming weeks, with rising star Leonor Rodriguez still very much in the frame.
Having recently graduated from Florida State University, the shooting ace was not only called up to the preparation camp for EuroBasket Women 2013, but was also snapped up by Liga Femenina champions Perfumerias Avenida.
Anticipating her first professional season in Salamanca, the player known to her friends simply as ‘Leo' is hugely excited about the deal and even more so with former team-mate and fellow young talent Mariona Ortiz also now on board.
"I am excited to compete at a great level and on an amazing team with a lot of tradition," confirmed Rodriguez.
"It's going to be really nice to play again with her [Ortiz].
"We had great memories from earlier Championships with the youth national teams."
The success the duo shared included securing gold at the U18 European Championship in Sodertalje during 2009.
Progression to the cusp of the senior team for talented young players follows a familiar pattern for Spanish basketball, with the Federation continuing to keep a clear pathway for the conveyor belt of talent coming through.
Rodriguez claimed it is an opportunity which still needs to be earned and she feels blessed to have had a high quality of support underpinning her dream to play at the top level.
"I believe that hard work pays off," insisted the guard.
"Especially when you have great players and coaches around you.
"I've been very lucky about that."
The last four years have been spent State-side, playing in the NCAA. By her own admission, the first three seasons with FSU were up and down.
However, she then exploded during her senior year to average 14.9 points-per-game, shooting 45% from downtown, after a self-confessed change in mentality.
"I just realised it was my last year and last chance to prove I was talented enough to play at a great college level," said Rodriguez.
"I am glad I was able to help my team both on and off the court during this past year.
"I have had great experiences and memories."
|Mariona Ortiz and Rodriguez had a strong relationship at youth level for Spain - something they may now reignite next month in France|
Coming back to Europe means the usual summer adjustment and having to quickly re-align her three-point radar back to cope with the extended range in comparison to the college perimeter.
"It's going well since right after the [college] season, I started working on the European three-point line and it seems like that work is paying off," she said with a smile.
Not that Rodriguez should ever be labelled as merely a shooter. Her game is much more refined and extensive than this including impressive creative passing ability - as evidenced when she stepped out for Spain at the FIBA 3x3 World Championship.
"It was an amazing experience," she recalled.
"I had a lot of fun playing in a more reduced space and also learn more things about myself playing this way.
"I would play it again without a doubt if I get another chance."
For now though, Rodriguez is simply focused solely on making a vital breakthrough with the senior national team and potentially making the plane to France by impressing Coach Mondelo, someone she has played under during her youth days.
She said, "I have played with coach Mondelo before and it is always nice to come back to a familiar face."
If Rodriguez does get the nod, she will join her team-mates in Vannes, where Spain will face Italy, Russia and Sweden in Group B.