Women - The Candidates
Though an injury kept Amaya Valdemoro from contributing as much as she would have liked to Spain's bronze medal run at EuroBasket Women 2009, she was with her team all the way and managed to play in the last four games, scoring 11 points in the bronze medal win over Belarus. The 1.83m small forward was a consistent force for club side Ros Casares in EuroLeague Women, averaging 17.3 points, 4.4 assists and 2.7 steals per game as they just missed out on a spot in the Final Four.
Ana Montanana has too often lived in the shadow of teammate Amaya Valdemoro, but at EuroBasket Women 2009 in Latvia she stepped out of that shadow and led her team in scoring as they finished third in the championships to take home a well-earned bronze medal. The 1.86m power forward averaged 16.2 points and 4.1 rebounds for the Spanish, showing remarkable consistency over the nine games, never failing to reach double-digits in scoring. On the club level Montanana played for Spanish powerhouse Ros Casares, averaging 7.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per contest.
Veremeenko was another key player in Belarus' run to the Semi-Finals of EuroBasket Women 2009. The 1.92m center averaged 10.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in Latvia where her team nearly repeated as bronze medallists. For club side Nadezhda Orenburg Veremeenko was named to EuroLeague Women All Star Team after averaging 13.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
The face of basketball in Latvia is without a doubt Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, and so for two weeks in June as her home country hosted EuroBasket Women 2009, she was in fact the face of basketball in general. The Latvians won their first four games of the competition, and though four straight losses would keep them from the podium, Jekabsone-Zogota had a great tournament, leading her team in points, assists and steals. Over the summer the 1.76m forward made the move to EuroLeague Women powerhouse Spartak Moscow Region where she hopes to add a cup title to her list of accomplishments.
Ann Wauters is the only player on our list who did not compete in EuroBasket Women 2009, as Belgium were unable to advance to the final round. The 1.95m center did plenty however in her club season to warrant a spot on the list. Wauters averaged 17.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for CSKA Moscow before moving to UMMC Ekaterinburg over the summer.
Though Hungary were unable to advance past the Preliminary Round at EuroBasket Women 2009 Anna Vajda proved once again that she belongs on the biggest stage in Europe. The 1.90m power forward got off to a bit of a slow start, but by the end seemed to have found her groove scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in loss to Poland. For club side MiZo Pecs, Vajda was rock, averaging 16.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
Celine Dumerc has been a player to be reckoned with for years in European women's basketball, playing at the highest level of EuroLeague Women and providing the French national team with much needed leadership as a younger generation of French stars made the transition to being the center of the national team program. It was that leadership that proved a key factor in France's improbable run to a gold medal at EuroBasket Women 2009 in Latvia. The diminutive guard averaged 8.1 points and 3.3 assists per game in the competition. That and her steadying hand earned her a spot on the All-Tournament Team.
Though Greece did not finish on the podium at EuroBasket Women 2009, they and their star forward Evanthia Maltsi in many ways stole the show. Their fifth place finish guaranteed them a place at the 2010 World Championships and Maltsi went home with the MVP trophy. The 1.80m Maltsi averaged 22.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game. For club side Prague Maltsi poured in 14.1 points and grabbed 4.8 rebounds per game.
EuroBasket 2009 was a struggle for perennial powers the Czech Republic as they made the transition to a younger generation, and while missing out on the Quarter-Finals was a disappointment Jana Vesela was not. The 1.90m forward averaged 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for the Czechs and for club side Ros Casares Vesela played the roll of lock down defender in helping to lead them to within a whisper of the Final Four.
Two years after playing host to EuroBasket Women Italy traveled to Latvia with very few expectations. The lack of pressure paid off in a spot in the Quarter-Finals thanks in large part to the play of Laura Macchi. The 1.88m power forward led her team in points (16.0) and rebounds (5.6), as they fell just one win short of a spot at the 2010 World Championships in the Czech Republic. For club side Beretta Famila Macchi averaged 11.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in the EuroLeague Women.
If Russia were to repeat as EuroBasket Women 2009 Maria Stepanova, the MVP of the 2007 event, would be a key cog. Though the Russians fell just short of that goal, losing in the final to France, it was not because of the 2.03m center. Stepanova averaged 12.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for the event, including an impressive 19 point, 16 rebound performance when it counted most against Spain in the Semi-Finals.
Without a doubt it was a dream summer for Sandrine Gruda who made the EuroLeague Women Final Four with club side UMMC Ekaterinburg and then won a gold medal at EuroBasket Women. It was in Latvia that Gruda showed she is one of the elite players in the game, leading her team in scoring (15.4) and rebounding (7.7). In the championship game against heavily favored Russia, Gruda led the way with 12 points and seven rebounds, and was named to the All-Tournament Team for her efforts.
Another member of the EuroLeague Women All Star Team in 2009, Shay Doron had a successful season both for club and country. The 1.75m guard was unable to lead Israel past the first round of EuroBasket Women but put up impressive numbers over her three games, averaging 18.3 points per game. For club side Besiktas Doron was equally effective, averaging 15.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
Though Belarus has shocked the basketball world in 2007 with a bronze medal at EuroBasket Women, there were few pundits who thought they could equal that two years later. Thanks in large part to the play of Yelena Leuchanka they proved that they are still a force to be reckoned with on the European stage. Leuchanka nearly averaged a double-double (10.6 points and 9.2 rebounds) in leading Belarus to within one win of a podium spot.
Slovakia were without a doubt a surprise package at EuroBasket 2009, no small thanks to their guard Zuzana Zirkova. The 1.75m spark plug led the Slovaks in points (15.2) and assists (3.0), as they just missed out on a spot in the Semi-Finals after a two point loss to Belarus. For her club side Frisco Sika Brno, Zirkova averaged 8.3 points, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game.