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Belarus' Unstoppable Twin Towers

13 June 2015
EUROBASKET WOMEN 2015
11. Yelena Leuchanka (Belarus)
Yelena Leuchanka with Anastasiya Verameyenka in the background

By Tristan Lavalette

Watching Belarus' powerful frontcourt duo Yelena Leuchanka and Anastasiya Verameyenka playing in tandem is a breathtaking sight.

Fused with skill, finesse and brute force, the incomparable pair's sheer inside presence instills a healthy dose of confidence to their team and, importantly, make opponents often feel intimidated.

They are both colossuses, measuring in excess of 1.90 metres, but notably they complement each other almost perfectly.

Leuchanka, aged 32, is a traditional center, who relishes patrolling the paint on defence and having the ball in the post on offence. She has a slew of savvy post moves, and when in the right position, her strength and underrated athleticism makes her almost unstoppable. Leuchanka can not only bully her way to the basket but she is also crafty and knows how to get her opponent in foul trouble.

Verameyenka, aged 27, is slightly shorter - still a sizeable 1.92 metres - and not quite a physical marvel like Leuchanka but she is blessed with an impressive degree of agility considering her size. She's more of a finesse player and suits the power forward role, making her the ideal foil to Leuchanka. The left-handed shooter has nice range, and can be a threat from beyond the arc, although her deft shooting touch hasn't been seen thus far in EuroBasket Women 2015.

Verameyenka missed last year's FIBA World Championship For Women due to maternity leave but her return to the court has excitingly rekindled her pairing with Leuchanka and promptly propelled Belarus' expectations.

After having a sizeable burden without Verameyenka, Leuchanka said she was relieved to once again play with her teammate. Having played with each other for many years, it wasn't difficult to re-establish their cohesion. "I'm glad to have her back," Leuchanka said of Verameyenka. "It was a little tough to play in the World Championship without her. We have played together for a long time, so we know what we both like.

10. Anastasiya Verameyenka (Belarus)
Leuchanka admits to having missed her fellow twin tower, Verameyenka, in Turkey last summer

"I play the five, while and she plays the four, so that works out well. She's a great outside shooter, and passer. If I get doubled, I can kick it out. We can play the high-low game well.

"But it isn't just about us, our whole team is dangerous."

Affectionately dubbed ‘the twin towers', both are highly adept passers for big players, an especially important skill to combat double teams. They have the vision and passing ability to kick the ball out to dangerous shooters Katsiaryna Snytsina and natuarlised player Lindsey Harding.

Belarus head coach Anatoli Buyalski has the luxury of not only playing the two together, but also ensuring that at least one of them is essentially always on the court. During their two games thus far, it's been rare for Belarus to use lineups not featuring Leuchanka and/or Verameyenka.

Despite possessing more firepower with the addition of the dynamic Harding, Leuchanka was adamant defence was still at the core of Belarus' identity. "You can have lots of offensive threat but defence and rebounding wins games, and that is proven," she said. "That is what we are concentrating on and if we do that well then we can have a good tournament."

Having played at the Beijing Olympics, which she described as her career highlight, Leuchanka was hopeful of another chance to compete at sports most iconic event. "It is the greatest event in sports and I would love to play there again," she said. "We expect a lot from ourselves and have great fans back home who are providing us with lots of support."

In one of the most potential fascinating matchups in Group B, Belarus' frontcourt will be pitted against Turkey's dangerous counterparts Nevriye Yilmaz and naturalised player Lara Sanders.

It looms as the pivotal battle in the clash between Belarus and Turkey tonight at Oradea.

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