FIBA Europe will be naming its Young Women’s Player of the year tomorrow in the first of four such awards given annually by the Continental organization. And the nominees are … Elina Babkina, Katerina Elhotova, Dürdane Gümüsay, Louice Halvarsson, Olesia Malashenko, Jelena Milovanovic, Sabine Niedola, Gintare Petronyte, Sonja Petrovic, Melanie Plust, Alba Torrens, and Marta Xargay. (Brief official FIBA bios run below the break.)
Ball in Europe is sticking by its December endorsement of Alba Torrens of Team Spain/Perfumerias Avenida (Salamanca) for this award. Torrens was most recently in the news for her placement on the “Europe” side for the Euroleague women all-star game alongside Continental notables such as Marta Fernandez, Becky Hammon and Anna Vajda. The World team includes DeLisha Milton-Jones and the always-linkable Erin Phillips. Torrens is the youngest player named to either roster.
Following the Young Women’s Player of the Year announcement, FIBA Europe will go on to name its Young Men’s Player of the Year on February 10, Women’s Player of the Year on February 12, and Men’s Player of the Year of February 15. Last year’s winners were Gintare Petronyte, Ricky Rubio, Maria Stepanov and Pau Gasol.
(FIBA Europe) – Europe will honor the best of European basketball starting next week with the announcement of the winners of the FIBA Europe Player of the Year awards. Nominees for the Young Women’s Player of the Year Award are:
• Elina Babkina (Latvia/Challes-les-Eaux) – After scoring 9.2 points per game for her home side SK Cesis in the EuroCup Women, Babkina was hoping for a nomination to the EuroBasket Women in her home country. But she was cut from the roster and showed at the U20 European Championship Women that she might have been able to help the seniors as well. She propelled Latvia to an unexpected third place finish while being the top scorer of the tournament at 21.8 ppg and second in assists at 5.1.
• Katerina Elhotova (Czech Republic/Prague) – Elhotova, who has been around on the top level for some years now, could not avoid a rather disappointing Czech outing at the EuroBasket Women, despite her solid 7.2 points and 1.5 steals. In EuroLeague Women, where she first played at the age of 17 in 2006, she gave her Prague side 5.6 points off the bench and also contributed big to the domestic league title that was won over long-time champions Brno.
• Dürdane Gümüsay (Turkey/Botas Spor) – After an injury-plagued Turkey senior team called Gümüsay up to go to Latvia, where she displayed some nice skills in chipping in 3.5 points ppg, she really stepped it up at the U20 European Championship Women. She scored a team high 15.1 points per game, grabbed 4.9 rebounds and also dished out 1.8 assists, leading her team to a sixth place finish.
• Louice Halvarsson (Sweden/Spartak Moscow region) – The second prospect in this list from EuroLeague Women powerhouse Spartak Moscow region really earned her spot on the three-time defending EuroLeague Women Champion’s roster. Beyond terrorising her domestic league opponents, she led Sweden to the promotion games of the EuroBasket Women Division B with 12.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. She also was the protagonist in a classy Sweden performance at the U20 European Championship Women.
• Olesia Malashenko (Ukraine/Arras Pays d’Artois) – Malashenko was selected to represent Ukraine at EuroBasket Women 2009, where she could do little but gather experience before Ukraine dropped out of the tournament after three games. Later in the summer at the U18 European Championship Women, she had some stellar performances while carrying a mediocre team to the quarterfinals and leading the tournament with 13.8 rebounds per game to go with 18.7 points per. For her former club Dexia Namur, Malashenko averaged 10 pts and 6.9 rebounds in the EuroCup Women.
• Jelena Milovanovic (Serbia/Sopron) – After shining at the youth tournaments of every age group in recent years, Jelena took her game to another level. She was arguably Sopron’s best player in the EuroLeague Women, averaging 15 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Milovanovic took Sopron on her back all the way to the Final Four. At EuroBasket Women 2009, she could not quite keep it up but still was her team’s second best scorer.
• Sabine Niedola (Latvia/Liepaja) – Serving as a role model for thousands of Latvian school kids, Niedola gave a glimpse of what Latvia can expect of her in the future in her final EuroBasket Women game: She played 24 minutes, scored 16 points, went for 11 boards and showed that she is physically ready for the senior game. In her age group, Niedola averaged a double-double at 20.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg. Niedola also handed out 3.3 assists and came up with 2.8 steals per game.
• Gintare Petronyte (Lithuania/Athinaikos) – The 2008 Young Woman Player of the Year followed up her award with some outstanding performances. The 1.94m center patrolled the paint for 20.6 points and 11 boards per game at the U20 European Championship Women where she also blocked almost three shots every game to intimidate opponents. At EuroBasket Women 2009, Lithuania could count on Petronyte’s rebounding (6.8) and she also scored 10.2 points per game.
• Sonja Petrovic (Serbia/Spartak Moscow region) – Being voted young women of the year as early as in 2007, Petrovic has since had to deal with several injuries that kept her from reaching her full potential. What she can do when healthy could be seen at EuroBasket Women, where she was by far Serbia’s best player. At the U20 European Championship Women she almost averaged a double-double before getting injured again. That Spartak Moscow region recently signed Petrovic to a multi-year contract is just further proof of her talent.
• Melanie Plust (France/Nantes Rezé) – Plust already has eight games in EuroLeague Women play under her belt, but her real time to shine came in the U20 European Championship Women. The shooting guard was outstanding in the French Gold Medal run, thrashing Spain in the final. Plust averaged a team-high 12.9 points and stole the ball 1.6 times a game.
• Alba Torrens (Spain/Salamanca) – Torrens, an exceptionally tall wing player, capitalised on an injury to Spain star Amaya Valdemoro to start for Spain at the EuroBasket Women. She did not disappoint anybody, going for 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest. She added another medal to her EuroBasket Women bronze by leading Spain to a 2nd place finish at the U20 European Championship Women, also being named MVP of the tournament.
• Marta Xargay (Spain/Salamanca) – The MVP of the silver medal-winning group from the U19 World Championship in Malaysia was the undisputed leader in the run to the finals where her Spain side fell to the US team. She averaged 15.4 points and 4.2 rebounds over the tournament and displayed great maturity and leadership. At the U20 European Championship Women she teamed up with Alba Torrens and Tamara Abalde to go for her second silver of the summer.