|19 August 2012|
|Cheridene Green was only called up last minute, but that does not show on the court, as she is averaging six points and eight rebounds|
By Paul Nilsen
Centre duo Zofia Hruscakova and Cheridene Green are two of the youngest players at the U20 European Championship Women but that hasn't stopped them making a real splash since they stepped out in Debrecen.
While Great Britain face up to the decidedly grim prospect of trying to cling to their place in Division A (ironically after Hruscakova produced 17 points against them in their final crunch Group D game), they can at least reflect on the emergence of Green with real excitement.
It's also a fascinating situation since had the're not been an Olympic Games this year, then it would probably have been London 2012 participant Temi Fagbenle under the basket instead of a player three years her junior.
One of only two 16 year old players in the competition, Green has shrugged off the difficulties of playing against more experienced players as well as only being handed a place on the roster at the very last minute to pull down an impressive eight rebounds per game.
"It was a last minute call-up for me less than a week before the tournament and I had to try and learn all the plays and get to know everyone on the court in a short space of time," explained Green.
"It's been a little stressful at times for me but also a good experience.
She continued: "Age is nothing but a number as far as I am concerned.
"Yes, I am only sixteen but obviously the people who called me up think I am good enough so you have to believe this and just play hard for the team."
The main reason for her call up was the blistering form which saw her claim a superb tournament double-double at the recent U18 European Championship Women Division B in Strumica where she debuted to help England to a promotion.
"Playing in F.Y.R. of Macedonia was good and it was an enjoyable tournament for me and the team," smiled Green.
"It was important we got promotion and I am so pleased that unlike last time we did it with the U16 team, I will actually be able to try out Division A next year.
"Stepping up from the U16 to U18 level meant working twice as hard as before and I think this is why I managed to play the way that I did."
|Zofia Hruscakova has not only been a threat under the baskets so far, as she is nailing 56.3% of her shots|
Age Is Just A Number
Hruscakova is also a player who had had to hot-foot it from a recent U18 European Championship Women competition although she was impressing in Division A with an arguably even more magnificent tournament double-double.
This is her second U20 European Championship Women tournament having also played at the age of sixteen when she stepped out last year in Novi Sad.
Just like Green, her fearless approach means she respects the challenge but is now getting used to having to try and impose herself against older opponents.
She said: "It is normal for me to play against older players because right through my career so far, I have played mostly against older players.
"It's very different playing against an opponent at U18 level and U20 level. At the U20 European Championship Women, players are stronger, faster and physically, they have better fitness.
"In U20 there are also more experienced players including some who have played in EuroLeague Women or other high level competitions."
Hruscakova has been absolutely terrific to date and her development during the past 12 months means she looks more of a threat and influence all over the floor.
In fact, despite being the youngest player on the Slovak Republic roster, she is leading her team in both scoring and rebounding with an eye-popping near tournament double-double of 14 points and 9.7 rebounds per game which has helped them into the Second Round.
Even after just three days there have been some incredibly dramatic highs and lows for Hruscakova and her team-mates, agonisingly losing to Serbia on the buzzer in overtime but also claiming a famous win against Russia.
"In the match against Serbia, we had little bit of bad luck," bemoaned Hruscakova.
"But after we lost this game, we kept our heads up and prepared for the match with Russia. We did so much hard work on the court against Russia and we deserved to take the victory."
She added: "I think we have a good team and the capacity to make the Quarter-Finals. Certainly we will not give up without a fight, and try our hardest to get the best possible position."
The real bonus for followers of the women's game at youth level is that both Hruscakova and Green will be stepping out for several tournaments after this year and that is a truly mind-boggling prospect.
For if they are this impressive now, it's indescribably exciting to think what impact they could potentially have by 2015 - that is of course, if they both keep working hard to stay in shape and further develop their game.