Five Players To Watch: Lille
FIBA Europe women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen give us his five players who he believes we need to be looking out for in the second round in Lille.
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Alba Torrens (Spain)
There had been fears expressed by some that Torrens may not quite be the same player in the wake of her ACL injury, but she has looked somewhere near her exquisite best since stepping out in Vannes. Forget the 30 points on debut against Russia, it has been the athletic plays, the blocked shots and real sense of purpose in her step which looks ominous for all those tasked with guarding her for the rest of the tournament. Even at this early stage, you wouldn't bet against an MVP award if Spain deliver a medal.
Birsel Vardarli (Turkey)
Take a look back at the highlights reel of any tournament and you can expect to see the magical passing skills of the Turkish guard somewhere. Her over-the-back-of-the-head assist to Quanitra Hollingsworth was outrageously brilliant and had everyone out of their seats. Best of all, she has actually made a transition from playmaker to a high-class combo guard, having worked incredibly hard on her three-point shooting in recent years. That makes her even better as she can slip to the two spot as part of an extensive guard rotation with Isil Alben, Tugba Palazoglu and Esmeral Tuncluer.
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Lucia Kupcikova (Slovak Republic)
Whilst Slovakia will not be favoured to progress beyond the second round in Lille, I can not ignore Kupcikova. If you love hard-nosed basketball, but done in the most beautifully unassuming way, then check her out. Seriously, you will struggle to find a better or more influential ‘glue player' in women's basketball, who shows leadership in such a subtle and yet extraordinarily effective way. If I was a European club coach or owner, she would be near the top of my list. She ticks all of the necessary boxes for me in a big way. From those all-important intangibles, to decisive plays in crunch time. Kupcikova just gets it done for her team and not for herself.
Jelena Dubljevic (Montenegro)
Despite having been plagued by back problems recently, the forward has been like a player possessed and had a stunning tournament so far - in fact she has been the best player in Vannes and could stake a claim for the tournament leader so far. She is averaging over 20 points-per-game, is yet to miss a single free-throw and is shooting over 50% from the field. As if that wasn't enough, she has also weighed in with plenty of assists and rebounds for the team. Best of all though, she has scored from all over the court which shows she is a nightmare to guard right now.
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Sancho Lyttle (Spain)
If I am honest, the forward is real quality without a doubt, but has not always convinced me in a Spanish national team vest. However, she really has come to play in this competition, especially defensively, where she is a top-level player. Consequently she is changing my mind and was a no-brainer for this list. She is averaging a superb tournament double-double with 14.7 points and 12.7 rebounds - an uplift on her debut two years ago in Poland.