|Paul Nilsen believes Leticia Romero is in the running for All Tournament team, thanks to her orchestration of the Spanish team and lightening-quick hands|
The race to make the All-Tournament team at the U18 European Championship Women in Vukovar and Vinkovci is about to enter crunch time and so we asked fibaeurope.com writer Paul Nilsen to check out the front-runners so far.
Spain and France have been the two teams who have made the most noise during the first six game days of the tournament and with three remaining, it looks likely each of these flawless teams could be heading towards the podium.
That would mean a number of players throwing down a strong case for a place in the All Tournament team and Spanish contenders look to be Ariadna Pujol, Leticia Romero, Maria Arrojo and Yaiza Rodriguez.
Pujol is in perpetual motion all over the court and a big factor in everything Spain do, Romero pulls the strings and has hands like lightening at the defensive end, Arrojo is always a potential game winner and Rodriguez is a sniper from the three-point line.
As for France, they have been perfect thanks mainly to their defensive capabilities, but also the offence provided behind the hot hand of Marine Johannes. The shooter is the biggest downtown danger around with a tournament-high 46.9%.
In the front court, Mousdandy Djaldi-Tabdi seems to have benefitted from competing on the global stage last month, having played for Les Bleues at the FIBA World Championship for Women in Lithuania. She is second in blocked shots for the competition and a huge defensive presence.
With four wins followed by two losses, the Netherlands have been up and down but Laura Cornelius has continued to show her development and the game of center Emese Hof also looks to be evolving nicely. She has finished in clinical fashion during most games.
|Gabriella Hanson is a player to watch for Sweden thanks to her timely ability to steal the ball and work hard on the glass|
Center Anna Shchetina and Polina Fedorova have stood out for Russia, who are an in-form team with four wins on the spin. Schetina had a fruitful time at the U19 Worlds last month and has come up big again with a solid 8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds-per-game. Fedorova meanwhile has added 11.8 points and 6.3 boards.
Serbian frontcourt pair Aleksandra Crvendakic and Dragana Stankovic have proved a real handful under the basket, with the former having also showcased some wonderful passing and awareness. The latter has been a tower of strength and head and shoulders above everyone else blocking-wise, with a mesmerising 3.5 rejections-per-game.
Italy have won five of their six games so far, with former U16 European Championship MVP Cecilia Zandalasini leading the team in points, steals and blocks to showcase her importance. Elisa Ercoli is also producing the goods with 7.8 points and 9.3 rebounds-per-game, achieved via a terrific 51.4% inside.
Sweden squeezed into the quarter-finals at the expense of Slovenia and they have been all about the team ethic rather than any big individual displays. Emma Eriksson has generally made the big shots and Gabriella Hanson has come up with the hard work on the glass and finding vital steals - though like their teammates, neither have found consistency in their shooting.
It has been a similar case for Turkey, who crawled over the finish line and into the last eight with a win against gutsy Croatia. Tilbe Senyurek is almost averaging double-digits on the glass and Serif Onar is making jump-shots and getting to the hoop with impressive regularity.
But, like any tournament with three big days lying in wait, there is still plenty of time for other contenders to emerge and for those already on the radar to strengthen their case further.