Matosinhos, Portugal – The U18 European Championship for Women was a tough challenge for a group of players who have USA colleges in their dreams. A good number of NCAA head coaches were in Portugal, in the city of Matosinhos, to scout the best U18 talent in Europe. In the end, Russia took the championship with a 57-53 win over France, but the list of players to keep an eye on for colleges is large.
Having the opportunity to see how players evolve in playing nine games in only eleven days, you understand better how physically and mentally strong these players have to be. Each day, you see how they react to the accumulated stress and tiredness, running for one more ball, in games that are growing in importance to the final classification. In addition to the champions from Russia, France, Spain, Serbia, the Netherlands and Belgium all booked their place in the next year’s U19 World Championship for Women.
The Russian victory was not a surprise for those who watched the competition. Two years ago, the Russians fought with problems to keep their big interior players fit during the U16 tournament. Now you can see how these players have grown to be very interesting pro prospects. Daria Kolosovskaia was named the Tournament’s MVP after scoring 19 points in the championship game. Tatiana Sema was the best rebounder and Kseniia Levchenko led the event in assists. All the three, along with Zhosselina Maiga may be future picks in the WNBA Draft, as they prepare to face professional careers with their Russian teams.
For those who follow these young European prospects, Matosinhos might not have brought big surprises. Spain’s Angela Salvadores, Serbia’s Aleksandra Crvendakic and Italy’s Cecilia Zandalasini proved to keep an high standard in their game, even if all had shown some signs of fatigue after a long summer season in other competitions. The same happened with the Portugal’s Maria Kostourkova, who, at 17 years old, drew quite a bit of attention from many of the coaches who scouted the event.
Kolosovskaia led the All-Tournament team averaging 15.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game. The rest of the All-Stars were; Louise Dambach (France) with 11.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game, Salvadores (Spain) 17.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.1 assists per game, Crvendakic (Serbia) with 14 points, 7.1 boards and 2.4 assists game as well as 24 points against Spain in the third-place game and Sema (Russia) who ended with a tournament double-double of 10.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.9 blocks per game.
The Portuguese public was very enthusiastic during the home team games and Matosinhos might be scheduled to receive another European Championship in the near future. It would be another big test for players, as the northern city of Portugal does not escape to the summer heat, making it harder for players to keep their pace and strength during the long tournament.
Luís Cristovao is a Portuguese Coach and an European Basketball Scout for NetScouts Basketball.