Future Looks Bright For Young Players

U20 Women Feature
Ayse Cora (Turkey)
Ayse Cora is delivering great performances for Turkey despite being younger than most of her opponents

Giving young players a chance to shine is what youth tournaments are all about.

But the U20 European Championship Women is going further than most this summer.

If you break down the rosters of each team, you will find that an incredible number of players present in Serbia were born in 1992 and 1993 - or even earlier - making them underage for this event.

In total, 86 of the 192 - 44.8% - players on hand in Novi Sad this week fall into that category, meaning that plenty of these players are likely to be back for next year's tournament, ready to go with valuable experience under their belt.

The young players here range from those coming off the bench to gain experience to talents who already command a starting place, such as Turkey's 1993-born guard Ayse Cora, who has averaged 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in 31.5 minutes through the preliminary and qualifying rounds, or Dutch prospect Kourtney Treffers, whose 8.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in 18 minutes per game make it hard to believe she was born in 1994.

It has not all been easy going for the youngest players in Serbia. The four teams with the highest number of underage players - Belarus (11), Slovakia (9), Germany (9) and Romania (9) - are the four that fell into the relegation battle.

"I think it makes sense," said Germany coach Raoul Scheidhauer. "What is says about the championship is that you need good players with good experience to win games and handle the pressure."

14. Sonja Greinacher (Germany)
Germany's top performer Sonja Greinacher will also be back for another U20 year

Slovakia have brought a very young squad, with two players born in 1994 and one - starting center Zofia Hruscakova - born in 1995, making her just 16 years and six months old.

"For her, after the first time she was substituted, I think she sat down and just thought, 'Wow'," said her coach Martin Pospisil. "She thought, 'Okay, I must play with more power, more concentration', but now, after several games she is getting better and better and better."

Slovakia, promoted from Division B last summer, struggled in the group stages after beating fellow promoted team Great Britain, but back-to-back wins in the relegation round have given them renewed hope.

"It's very important for Slovakian basketball to beat relegation because this team is very young, but can be a very good team not just for next year but for years," said Pospisil. "For that, we need to stay in Division A."

But while the very youngest have found it hard work to compete with more experienced teams, some have made the grade.

Poland have six underage players on their roster, but have registered impressive wins against defending champions Russia - who have just one - and hosts Serbia.

4. Magdalena Zietara (Poland)
Magdalena Zietara stand out for Poland with good numbers

"We are very happy with how they have done," said coach Ivona Jablonska, even after watching them miss out on top spot in Group E by losing to Turkey. "We have played tough games and won against Serbia, Russia and Lithuania and so now we go to the quarter-finals optimistic of another win."

"We've got some really good players, and actually some good players from 1992 who are injured, so hopefully we can have another good team next year if everyone is healthy."

Lithuania fell just short of the quarter-finals as they suffered a heart-breaking 71-68 loss to Ukraine in the battle for the last spot from Group E.

But with seven underage players on the roster, they can still come away proud of their achievements and optimistic about the future.

"Lithuania is a small country," said coach Ramune Kumpiene. "We do not always have enough players at every age group. That means we have brought young players, but they have gained good experience and grown together, so we can look forward to next summer."


16.07.2011 - Classification Roundup
14.07.2011 - U20 Women Feature
13.07.2011 - U20 Women Group F
12.07.2011 - U20 Women Group F

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