|Anastasiya Verameyenka was instrumental for Belarus in last summer's Qualification Round|
Road to EuroBasket Women 2013: Belarus surpassed the expectations of many last summer after shrugging off the absence of the influential and WNBA occupied Yelena Leuchanka, along with retired playmaker Natalia Marchanka. They finished a terrific qualification campaign by topping Qualification Round Group A with a 6-2 record.
Team History: It has been an emotional roller-coaster for many of the Belarus players in recent times after achieving a stunning and historic bronze medal at EuroBasket Women 2007 and following this up with a semi-final spot in 2009. But, they hit the kerb two years ago and failed to even make the quarter-finals, having been tipped for better things.
Keep an Eye On: Anastasiya Verameyenka was named Belarus Player of the Year by her Federation and has had a sensational 12 months to wrestle the mantle of team star away from Leuchanka. Incredible during qualification, she finished at the top of four statistical categories for her team, including points, rebounds, assists and blocks. She then took that scorching form to Istanbul for her first year with Fenerbahce, propelling the Turkish giants to a historic first EuroLeague Women Final and domestic championship success. The return of Leuchanka is a huge bonus due to her experience, quality, scoring ability and size. It makes Belarus an imposing defensive presence in the paint.
X Factors: The imperious defence which underpinned their previously successful exploits between 2006 and 2010, will remain the rock upon which any potential success will be built. There are however some decisions to be made by head coach Rimantas Grigas about the way his two prize assets in Verameyenka and Leuchanka are utilised. They have not always been most effective as twin towers and so it will be an interesting decision to make on how to make the most of their skills. The failure of Tatyana Troina to recover from her ACL injury is an undeniable blow, since she was excellent in qualification last summer and a real leader. The issue caused by the loss of a playmaker like Marchanka was always going to be a headache for Coach Grigas, but the emergence of Aliaksandra Tarasava last summer and versatility of Natallia Anufryienka have mitigated the risk posed by this potential problem. The talented Katsiaryna Snytsina and the dynamic Tatsiana Likhtarovich must produce offensively; otherwise the defence may not be enough to win games.
In Summary: Having established themselves as a genuine European power off the back of some impressive tournament performances, including that podium success in 2007, the wheels came crashing off at EuroBasket Women 2011. With their Olympic dreams brutally shattered, it looked to be the end of a short but impressive era, as Anatoly Buyalski stepped down. However, his successor Rimantas Grigas has helped to heal the wounds quickly and now his team could just be about to do more than merely pick up the pieces. In fact, many are actually predicting them to return to prominence in a big way and especially with Leuchanka back on board.