EUROBASKET WOMEN PREVIEW

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Damian Jennings has set a high bar for Great Britain is in his first campaign at the helm which begins, in earnest, on Saturday when his side open up EuroBasket Women against Serbia in Trelaze.

The Englishman was handed the reins after an impressive stint with GB’s Under-20 side and a successful year spent in Canada.

And following several weeks of training camp, his roster contains nine holdovers from the Olympics with leading scorer Jo Leedham boosting hopes with her late arrival following an unsuccessful bid to land a deal in the WNBA.

Jennings: ambitious (Ville Vuorinen/BB)

Jennings: ambitious (Ville Vuorinen/BB)

Much will hang on their fortunes, with UK Sport effectively demanding victories if British Basketball wants to retain its funding up to 2016.

But although one win might be enough to secure a spot in the next stage, Jennings will set an ambitious target. “You’ve got to go for two, right?” he said.

“The beauty of it is now is that we’ve played all these teams in other competitions or other games. We’ve played France. We’ve played Latvia. And we’ve either beaten them or challenged them.

“We’re not far off.”

In the other game in Group C on the opening day, the hosts take on Latvia with the top three finishers in each pool progressing.

The French, the Olympic silver medallists in London last summer, will be the outstanding tournament favourites.

Behind them, it is any two from three in an open group, with Serbia untested and Latvia in re-building mode.

The Serbs, declared their coach Marina Maljkovic, will treat GB with the utmost respect.

“They fight very hard,” she said. “They are a team that has been on the European stage. And simply, last summer they were in the Olympics playing great teams, we were in the qualification.

“GB is not young. They are a very experienced team with a very good system in place.”

SCHEDULE – Group C (Trelaze)

Saturday 15 GB v Serbia (11.30 BST), Latvia v France (8pm)

Sunday 16 GB v Latvia (2pm), France v Serbia (8pm)

Monday 17 France v GB (8pm), Latvia v Serbia (2pm)

 

OPPONENT WATCH

SERBIA

Coach: Marina Maljkovic

A young and inexperienced squad put together by coach Marina Maljkovic looked impressive in the qualification phase but their best could yet be ahead. It has been a long time since the Serbians made a significant impact but with five players, plus their coach, all coming from Partizan Belgrade, the building process has been very deliberate.

Player to Watch: Jelena Milovanovic

Ana Dabovic (TED Ankara), Bojana Vulic (Canik Bld), Sasa Cado (Partizan Galenika), Dajana Butulija (Partizan Galenika), Ines Ajanovic (SK Cesis), Ivanka Matic (Municipal Targoviste), Jelena Milovanovic (UE Sopron), Jovana Rad (Tarbes GB), Milica Dabovic (Partizan Galenika), Nevena Jovanovic (Partizan Galenika), Sara Krnjic (UE Sopron), Tamara Radocaj (Partizan Galenika)

LATVIA

Coach: Aigars Nerds

Hit by injuries, the Latvians are trying to extend their run of quarter-final appearances of six but with a number of retrials in recent times, they bring a touch of the unknown to the group. Much will depend on their backcourt helped their unproven faces to come up trumps in the paint.

Player to Watch: Elina Babkina

Anda Eibele (SK Cesis), Elina Babkina (ZVVZ USK Praha),Kristine Karklina (Ceyhan Belediye), Ieva Krastina (TTT Riga), Kitija Laksa (TTT Riga), Liene Jansone (Tarsus), Anete Steinberga (UTEP), Aija Brumermane (PINKK Pecsi 424), Liga Surkusa (Cignoli Broni), Anete Horelika (Pro Build Lions), Zane Jakobsone (SK Cesis), Dita Liepkalne (SK Cesis)

 FRANCE

Coach: Pierre Vincent

Unquestionably the favourites, Les Bleues were brilliant in London last summer until they ran into the USA in the final and fell to pieces. They have to carry the weight of expectation this time but with so much strength in depth, they are surely up to the challenge.

Player to Watch: Celine Dumerc

Marielle Amant (Nantes Reze), Valeriane Ayayi (Basket Landes), Celine Dumerc (Bourges), Emilie Gomis (BLMA), Sandrine Gruda (UMMC Ekaterinburg), Anael Lardy (ZVVZ USK Prague), Edwige Lawson-Wade (BLMA), Endene Miyem (Bourges), Emmeline Ndongue (Bourges), Gaelle Skrela (BLMA), Diandra Tchatchouang (Perpignan), Isabelle Yacoubou (Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje).

MVP prediction: 1. France, 2. Serbia, 3. Great Britain, 4. Latvia

Group A (Vannes)

Montenegro, Ukraine, Turkey, Slovakia

MVP prediction: 1. Turkey, 2. Ukraine, 3. Montenegro, 4. Slovakia

Group B (Vannes)

Spain, Sweden, Russia, Italy

MVP prediction: 1. Spain, 2. Russia, 3. Sweden, 4. Italy

Group D (Trelaze)

Lithuania, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Rep.

MVP prediction: 1. Belarus, 2. Croatia, 3. Czech Rep, 4. Lithuania

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