Equipe du Mali Féminine

20 players to watch at the World Cup; Volume 2

Temps de lecture : 3 mn 🕗

SYDNEY (Australia) – In the second part of our countdown, here are some more ballers ready to light up the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 as we check out places 15-11.

If you missed the first volume in our series focusing on players in the 20-16 spots, you can check it out here.

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15. Sika Kone – Mali

What a bitter-sweet tournament this could be for Mali and for their exceptional young talent and marquee player Sika Kone. No doubt delighted to be given an unexpected opportunity to play in Sydney, the power-packed forward can showcase her amazing talent on the very biggest stage. This could be a continuation of her amazing exploits at the Qualifying Tournament back in February in Belgrade when she was deservedly an All-Star Five member.

However, on the flip-side of that positive outlook, Mali could barely be in a more difficult pool of teams. They are the massive underdogs in the ‘Group of Death’ and will struggle to stay competitive. Plus, Kone is going to be top of the scouting list of every opponent and be subjected to plenty of close defensive attention. She is still learning the game but is an incredible prospect and one of the very best ballers from her continent, with the genuine potential to be one of the best to have ever come from Africa.

14. Himawari Akaho – Japan

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Truly a baller for all seasons, Akaho has it all and while she may not have the flashy style of many other players, she combines a relentless work and team ethic with an unassuming ability to get it done in the clutch. The forward serves Japan brilliantly at both ends of the floor and while she is no scoring machine, she gets big buckets, can shoot the three consistently and is a force on defense.

The way she shot the ball from range at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Osaka was excellent and last year at the FIBA Women’s AsiaCup she was named MVP. One of her most memorable plays was a defensive one as she got the last ditch block in the Semi-Finals to take the reigning champs to yet another Final and ultimately another title. Logging only 7 minutes per game four years in Tenerife, Akaho should be a leader and real force this time around in Sydney.

13. Marine Johannes – France

Everyone knows that Johannes is a walking highlights reel and one of the women’s basketball’s best entertainers. However, she may need to now show another side and step up to the plate to become a bonafide leader for France after it was revealed that Sandrine Gruda would not return for the flagship event as anticipated. At the Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, the guard made the All-Star Five in a bitter-sweet ride which saw her play well, but France get beaten up badly by China and also lose in a shock defeat to Nigeria.

There is no doubt at all that when you take into account absences and the ‘Group of Death’ France find themselves in, it will be a massive challenge. But, some Johannes magic could be a difference-maker for them and the difference between making the Quarter-Finals or heading home early. It’s also an opportunity for Johannes to show she is a whole lot more than her assists highlights reel.

12. Bridget Carleton – Canada

The guard enjoyed something of a breakout competition at Tokyo 2020 and continued this form at the Qualifying Tournament for Sydney back in February when she made the Osaka All-Star Five with some super performances. Most notably, a dazzling 28 points against Bosnia and Herzegovina with a jaw-dropping 11 of 12 shooting performances.

Pitched into Pool B and the so-called ‘Group of Death,’ Canada will need Carleton to bring a big scoring punch if they are to advance to the Quarter-Finals and even challenge for the podium. She is not all about putting points on the board though and showed this on her Olympic debut last year when she was second for Canada in rebounds and assists, as well as points.

11. Yvonne Anderson – Serbia

The dynamic and versatile guard is the player that makes Serbia tick and it was no coincidence that her arrival last year was pivotal to Serbia winning a second FIBA Women’s EuroBasket title when they topped the podium in Valencia. She sets the tone at both ends of the floor with her quickness, pressure defense and leadership qualities – something that will be needed more than ever in Sydney because of Serbia’s limited experience in comparison to previous tournaments in recent years.

If Serbia needs to control the tempo to keep things more scrappy than usual because of their reduced firepower, then Anderson’s role is going to be vital because she will need to handle the ball a lot and try to run the show. She has had a terrific first 12 months on the international stage and if she can replicate the form of the Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade when she was MVP of Serbia’s group, then their chances of making the Quarter-Finals or beyond will increase considerably.

FIBA

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