Five Players To Watch: Vendespace

18 June 2013

EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013

FIBA Europe writer Joe Hewison gives us his five players who he believes we need to be looking out for in the second round in Vendespace.

11. Yelena Leuchanka (Belarus)

Yelena Leuchanka - Belarus

The hand injury that forced Leuchanka to cut short her successful season in China doesn't seem to be showing any ill effects after the first three days of EuroBasket Women.

The center has formed a formidable frontcourt partnership with Anastasiya Verameyenka, which is causing many to think twice about driving to the Belarus basket.

But it is on the offensive end that Leuchanka really comes into her own.
She has picked up right where she left off in China, averaging 13.5 points and 10 rebounds in just over 26 minutes of play through day one and two.


Thanks in no small part to Leuchanka's contribution, Belarus had already qualified for the second phase ahead of their final Group D game against Lithuania.

This gave coach Rimantas Grigas the opportunity to rest his starters, one of those being Leuchanka, who was only required for five minutes and 51 seconds, leaving her fresh for the next stage.

She is also a player that has been here before of course, having played her part in the Belarus team that finished third at EuroBasket Women 2007 and then fourth at the World Championships in 2010.


Johannah Leedham - Great Britain

Great Britain's top scorer at last summer's Olympic Games, where she averaged 16.2 points-per-game in five contests, Johannah Leedham is only going to get better at this competition goes on.

The guard joined her team's camp late in the lead-up to EuroBasket Women after she was waived by WNBA team, the Connecticut Sun, having spent the second half of last season with French club Bourges.

Despite suggestions that she might struggle with fatigue due to her lack of preparation, Leedham has continued to lead Great Britain's scoring charge, making 12, 14 and 13 points in her three games thus far.

New Head Coach Damian Jennings must take some credit for accommodating his best natural scorer at late notice as he continues to implement new systems that seem to be bringing the best out of his fairly inexperienced squad.

If Great Britain are to advance to the quarter-finals, as is now their aim, then Leedham must maintain her aggressive approach to offence, by getting to the foul line as well as shooting the three-point shots she enjoys so much.

13. Johannah Leedham (Great Britain)
4. Isabelle Yacoubou (France)
 

Celine Dumerc may well be the darling of the French nation as they get caught up in the excitement of hosting this competition - but Yacoubou is not far behind her.

The dominant center was another integral part of the French side that stormed to the silver medal at last year's Olympic Games and her stock has only headed one way since.

She has built on another impressive season at the top level of Russian club basketball while also competing in EuroLeague Women.

But her performances and the relationship she has built-up with the home crowd have been captivating in the first three games.
Signature handshakes, chest-thumping celebrations and post-game dance moves are all part of Yacoubou's appeal but to focus on this is to do a disservice to her ever-improving game built on power and poise.

As demonstrated by the 12.7 points and seven rebounds she has averaged in just 14 minutes of play through the first three games, Yacoubou has been simply unplayable as she serves as chief battering ram in France's unmatched frontcourt line-up.

Any teams with designs on beating France must first stop Yacoubou, something that is easier said than done.


 

The loss of Jana Vesela to a tournament-ending knee injury just three minutes into their first game stunned Czech Republic.

But they bounced back to secure an important win over Lithuania and a big part of the reason for that was Burgrová.

Her stats don't jump off the page but the 13 points she notched in that defeat of the Green Machine are nothing to be sniffed at and her game is much more than scoring.

Burgrová can get up and down the court at a good pace for her size (1.94m) and since the loss of Vesela, it seems that she has become the focal point of many of the Czech Republic's offenses, perhaps in a bid to create space for the likes of Katerina Elhotova and Petra Kulichová.

As bad as the Czech Republic were in their first game, following the loss of Vesela, their response has since been impressive and that adversity could be something that brings the group together and helps them to push on, behind Burgrová.


8. Ilona Burgrová (Czech Republic)
9. Jelena Milovanovic (Serbia)
 

Serbia are so far the only team at EuroBasket Women to have come through a straight ‘win-or-go-home' match-up and there is no way they could have done so without Milovanovic.

The forward scored 15 points in that vital victory over Latvia but what was perhaps most impressive was that nine of those points came from 10 free-throw attempts, many of them down the stretch when the game was on the line.

But this is not to say the 24-year-old has to rely on trips to the charity stripe to light up the scoreboard.

Milovanovic scored 19 in Serbia's competition opener against Great Britain, six of them coming from beyond the arc, demonstrating perhaps her greatest strength, the ability to score in a number of different ways.

She has received scoring support from Ana Dabovic amongst others but the fact that Milovanovic still manages to make and take her own shots when she is undoubtedly at the centre of the defence's attention is what suggests she can make a difference later in the competition.


 


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