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 (pictured) and Elena Gogiya give Russia a solid frontline.|
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 of Serbia earned MVP honours at last year's U18 European Championship.|
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 keyed Spain's run to the U18 European Championship 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.