|25 July 2012|
|Albina Razheva came off the bench and averaged 7.6 points and 5.7 rebounds for Russia in the 2011 tournament - the power forward is expected to have a leading role this summer |
Hosts Romania will take on powerhouse Russia, up-and-coming force in women's basketball Turkey and newly promoted Greece in Group B of the U18 European Championship Women.
Greece are hoping that the momentum of attaining promotion from Division B will be the inspiration for another successful summer campaign when they make the step up in Bucharest.
They will be led by Vasiliki Tarla who is a feisty ‘glue' player that can hold it all together and provide leadership along with the prolific Anna Stamolamprou, who poured in over 17 points per game at the U16 European Championship last year.
Playmaker Merve Aydin should pull the strings for Turkey again as they try to improve on last summer's seventh-place finish.
Although the likes of Olcay Cakir and Ozge Kavurmacioglu have moved on to U20 level, there is plenty of younger talent ready to step up.
Hulya Coklar is an outstanding prospect who tore it up last summer at the U16 Championship in Cagliari with a stunning tournament double-double.
If she can repeat that kind of form on her debut at U18 level, Turkey could have every chance of being a contender.
Russia used to dominate this category but it's been four years since they reached the podium and eight years since their last gold medal.
It represents an enormous drought for their standards, after winning three consecutive gold medals in a row during 2000, 2002 and 2004 - before the competition became an annual event.
Albina Razheva is likely to be the main 1994-born returnee and will be joined by a group of 1995-born players who finished sixth at U16 level last year.
The big question is whether the all-round team strength of Russia will be sufficient, since they don't look to have the one or two real potential stars some other teams possess.
Group B looks like a potentially tough assignment for hosts Romania who managed to stay clear of the relegation round in Oradea last summer, although much of that was down to the irrepressible Sonia Ursu.
The versatile guard led her team in four statistical categories but is no longer eligibile to play in this age group now.
Replacing her seems to be an impossible task and so the entire team will really have to step up.
Especially since there are some interesting and reliable players but no true standouts from the U16 team of last summer, that could only finish eighth in Division B.