Belarus Lose Valko, Ukraine Stars Shine

24 January 2013
Sviatlana Valko (Belarus)
Pregnancy has ruled Sviatlana Valko unavailable for Belarus for the upcoming EuroBasket Women this summer

Belarus will have to do without Sviatlana Valko when they step out in France this summer, whilst Ukraine can gain significant satisfaction from their main performers shining brightly during the current club season.

Belarus head coach Rimantas Grigas is likely to be disappointed at losing his 22-year-old playmaker after it was revealed Valko is pregnant and therefore can't participate.

Whilst she only saw a handful of minutes last summer during the Qualification Round, the Grodno native had been in real form this season with Horizont in EuroCup Women.

She averaged nine points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, as well as showcasing her combo skills with some devastating three-point shooting which still remains the best in the competition.

With Belarus not able to field a deep roster and backcourt choices limited, this is a real blow off the back of an ACL injury to experienced wing player Tatyana Troina who is locked in a race against time to regain full fitness and be ready to step out in the tournament.

The other key issue for Grigas and Belarus is securing the services of their marquee star Yelena Leuchanka. The center didn't play with the national team last year, opting instead to spend time playing in the WNBA.

However, now back from playing in the Chinese WCBA, it is hoped she will confirm her availability to lead Belarus on the floor as they seek to make up for their desperately disappointing and underwhelming display two years ago in Poland.

Belarus is scheduled to go up against Croatia, Czech Republic and Lithuania in Group D which will be played out in Trelaze.

9. Alina Iagupova (Ukraine)
Alina Iagupova gives Ukrainian fans a reason to be optimistic this summer

Meanwhile there are several reasons for surprise package Ukraine to be hopeful of a strong showing with a number of key players who are all in fine form right now - something which bodes well for their head coach, Vadim Czeczuro.

Ukraine emerged from a tough group last summer, perhaps against the expectations of many, but now they could pose a real threat with the likes of Alina Iagupova, Viktoria Mircheva and Oleksandra Kurasova all currently highlighting their respective qualities.

Still only 20 years old, Iagupova exploded in her homeland for Elizabeth-Basket recently, amassing 45 points, five rebounds and four assists for her team during one game. She leads the league in points with 31.6 per game and is averaging 7.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game to further underline her extensive skill-set.

Iagupova has been nominated for the FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year award after leading her nation in scoring last summer, even managing to grab the most rebounds too - despite playing in either a shooting guard or small forward role.

Mircheva has been the leading scorer for Nantes Reze in EuroCup Women and has enjoyed an impressive season, although couldn't prevent her team from exiting at the quarter-final stage, having looked to be in the box-seat against MBK Ruzombeok in a fight to make the last four of the competition.

Finally, Kurasova is bidding to make the Final Eight of EuroLeague Women and secure the Liga Femenina Championship during coming months with Rivas Ecopolis. She has already helped her team make it to the post season with some consistent contributions all year, averaging 14.5 points per game.

Ukraine find themselves in Group A and are set to face Montenegro, Slovak Republic and Turkey in Vannes.


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