Preview: Russia Look To Repeat As U20 Women Champs

11 June 2007

As defending champions and with their towering frontline, Russia head into the Ostchem U20 European Championship for Women in Sofia, Bulgaria as title favourites.

A year ago in Hungary, Russia went 2-1 in preliminary round play, but then pulled off five straight victories in the quarter-final round, the semis and the title game respectively to lift the gold medal.

Elizaveta Rusakova (RUS)
Elizaveta Rusakova (pictured) and Elena Gogiya give Russia a solid frontline.
The prospects of a repeat look promising again in 2007 as Elena Gogiya, Russia’s top scorer from the competition a year ago, is back on the squad.

Gogiya, a 1.91 m center who just completed her first EuroLeague Women season with UMMC Ekaterinburg, will once again team with Elizaveta Rusakova to create a dominating low-post presence for Russia.

Last year, Gogiya tallied 11.8 ppg, while the 1.92 m Rusakova added 8.8 a contest.

No team should be able to match Russia’s post play. But while the Russians enter play as the team to beat, there will be a number of top players from across the continent who will look to lead their sides to title glory in Bulgaria when the competition tips off on 13 July. Among the players and teams to watch include:

Sonja Petrovic, Serbia:

Everyone knows Serbia to be one of European basketball’s top countries. However, the Serbs didn’t

Sonja Petrovic (Serbia & Montenegro)
Sonja Petrovic of Serbia earned MVP honours at last year's U18 European Championship.
even appear in the U20 Women’s Division A level one year ago. A silver medal finish in the Division B level allowed them to earn promotion to the top flight. Now in Division A, Serbia hope to make a run behind their talented core that led the country to silver at the U18 category in 2006. Leading the pack is 19-year-old forward Sonja Petrovic, who claimed the U18 European Championship MVP award. She was no doubt the key to Serbia’s run to the silver medal in Spain a year ago, averaging a team-best 14.8 ppg and 8.7 rpg. A threat in the post and from the perimeter, Petrovic also was her side’s leading three-point shooter, converting 10-of-19 from beyond the arc. What is even more impressive about Petrovic was her maturity level, evidenced by her comments upon winning the MVP award. "It is nice to be MVP but I don't feel good. I would be happy to be MVP if we had won the gold medal," she said. Regarding her teammates, Petrovic said: "We are like a family, we do laugh together, we cry together, we do everything together. So my MVP award is like their MVP award." Serbia will look to the unselfish and humble Petrovic to make a run to the podium in Bulgaria. Jelena Milovanovic, who averaged 14.6 ppg at the U18 level a year ago, will once again team with Petrovic to make this goal more feasible.

Endene Miyem, France

No country has been more effective in recent years at producing young talented stars than France. Sandrine Gruda, the 2006 FIBA Europe Young Women’s Player of the Year, Isabelle Yacoubou, the MVP of the 2006 U20 Eurpean Championship, and Elodie Godin, have all burst on to the European women’s basketball scene in recent years. This summer, Endene Miyem could very well be the next French rising star. The Reims-born Frenchwoman was the only player from the U18 European Championship to finish in the top five in both scoring and rebounding (her 17.3 ppg were second and her 10.0 rpg fourth). Miyem was able to establish herself in the EuroLeague Women with semi-finalists Bourges. The 1.88 m forward served as a reliable reserve for Pierre Vincent’s Bourges side as she tallied 4.9 ppg in 15.3 minutes of action. Miyem received considerable playing time in the EuroLeague Final Four. As a result of competing against the top senior-level European players, Miyem will in all likelihood be ready to dominate at the U20 youth level. Miyem will be joined by her Bourges teammate Carine Paul and USVO sub Jennifer Digbeu. The trio will set their sights on a return to the U20 podium (they earned bronze a year ago in Hungary).

Silvia Dominguez and Anna Carbo, Spain:

Dominguez, the Spanish point guard had a solid U20 campaign in 2006, finishing 10th in the competition in scoring (14.0 ppg) and ninth in

Silvia Dominguez (Spain)
Silvia Dominguez keyed Spain's run to the U18 European Championship gold medal.
assists (3.4 apg). Spanish basketball fans can be even more hopeful about Dominguez going into this summer’s play based on her remarkable EuroLeague Women campaign with Halcon Avenida. No player from last year’s youth competitions has made a bigger impact with a EuroLeague Women side than Dominguez. The flashy point guard averaged 6.1 ppg and 2.3 apg in 23 minutes a game. Included in this tally was a 15-point, three assist performance against EuroLeague perennial power CSKA Volgaburmash and their star point guard Edwige Lawson. There is no doubt that Dominguez will be one of the top talents on display in Bulgaria. Meanwhile, the Barcelona-born Anna Carbo was the leading scorer for Spain’s side which won the Umcor U18 European Championship for Women last year. Carbo, a do-it-all forward, averaged 12.8 ppg during the competition. But she was particularly instrumental in Spain’s last three triumphs, in which she scored 20, 15 and 17. The Carbo and Dominguez duo will once again set their sights on a gold medal.

Margret Skuballa, Germany:

If there is one country capable of pulling off a surprise in Bulgaria, it could be Germany. The Germans finished a respectable sixth last year in Hungary and they return their top three scorers from that competition: Margret Skuballa, Anna-Christine Gorg and Romy Bar. Skuballa, a 1.85 m Hamburg native, led the group by tallying 15.0 ppg last year, fifth best overall. She has spent the last two seasons at the club level refining her game with EuroCup Women participants BG Dorsten. Gorg, a power forward, tallied 14.4 points a game, while Bar added 12.9 per contest. Franziska Wenzel, Germany's second-leading scorer from last year’s U18 team, is also suiting up with the U20 squad this year. With such talent and experience, Germany could very well make a run to the podium in Bulgaria.

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