|Netherlands guard/forward Isabella Slim practiced 25 hours a week last year and is prepared to work even harder from now on|
By Paul Nilsen
Slim has impressed and attracted a lot of attention during her team's run to the Quarter-Finals in Bucharest and believes she can continue her development as a player.
She has just completed her first full campaign in the top Dutch league and is hoping to spend the next few years in the USA, playing in the NCAA.
"Last season I worked really hard to become a better player," Slim recalls.
"I practiced 25 hours a week, two times a day at CTO Amsterdam, which is a development programme for young talents in the city, supported by our Olympic committee and the Dutch Basketball Federation.
"I think I can improve on several elements of my game like my jumping ability and speed.
"It was a hard season for me in the Dutch league with Amsterdam because we played with a really young team against a lot more experienced teams.
"I played a lot at the guard positions to help develop my ball-handling skills and leadership and I think this is really paying off during the European Championship.
"After I graduate, I want to go to the United States to play college basketball as that has been my dream since I was nine years old," she continues.
It's an interesting decision from the Netherlands forward, who has watched team-mate Kourtney Treffers turn down a move to the NCAA in favour of heading straight to EuroLeague Women finalists Rivas Ecopolis.
According to Slim, there is no right or wrong way for young players to go.
"I think both options are good," she offered.
"It depends on what you can and what you want. You will become a better player either way as long as you work hard!"
AIMING FOR A MEDAL
The Netherlands have had something of a roller-coaster ride during the first week of competition in the Romanian capital.
It has included a couple of disappointing losses but also the high of an extraordinary overtime win against Serbia.
"That game was such a thriller," smiled Slim.
"We were behind during the whole game but managed to make a come-back. We played so well as a team during the fourth period.
"And, after that game, all I could do was to keep screaming and smiling!"
|Slim had her participation at last summer's U16 European Championship Women cut short due to injury and the first thing she wants ahead of the quarter-final with Turkey is to be available to help her team|
"Our aim for this tournament is to at least reach the top five so we can earn a ticket for the FIBA U19 World Championship Women in 2013.
"But, of course, I really want a medal!
"If we want to reach the Semi-Finals we have to be at our best and must play the whole game as a team and just believe in ourselves."
Slim is just enjoying the ride right now and is appreciative of both playing well and being in with a chance of a semi-final spot.
She knows only too well though that things can go wrong at a moment's notice, having had last summer's U16 European Championship Women cut short through injury.
"Last year I got injured in the first minute of just the third game," bemoaned Slim.
"That was really disappointing since all I could do was to help my team from the side-line and I really don't want to go through that again."
PAINT IT ORANGE
If there has been one special element so far in Bucharest to compliment the progress of the team, it has been the usual fervent travelling support for the Netherlands from family and friends.
They have made plenty of noise and painted each day with splendid and vibrant orange.
"You can hear the crowd during the game and that gives you much more energy and confidence," agreed Slim.
"We know they will always support us after a win, but also after a loss.
"I am really thankful for that."
Those fans will no doubt be in fine voice as the Netherlands try to secure a semi-final berth and, ahead of their Friday quarter-final, I asked Slim to summarise exactly what she was all about.
"I am a girl with a dream to reach the very top as a basketball player," she explained.
"I am a leader on the court and I just can't stand losing."
Turkey had better take note.