|Although just 19, Ksenia Tikhonenko will be among the most experienced players at the U20 European Champinship Women this summer, as she has had valuable court time in the EuroLeague Women with Sparta&K|
There were some oohs and ahs at the EuroLeague Women Final Eight on 29 March when a big, strong teenager wearing long, black hair ran onto the Abdi Ipekci floor for Sparta&K M.R Vidnoje against Ros Casares.
Ksenia Tikhonenko stands 1.90m tall, has broad shoulders and real presence on the court.
In the limited minutes she received at the Final Eight, there was enough evidence to suggest that one day in the not-too-distant future, she'll be a force.
The side the 19-year-old will turn out for this summer is Russia at the U20 European Championship Women in Debrecen, Hungary.
The Russians will go up against Great Britain, the Slovak Republic and Serbia in Group D and Tikhonenko wants to prove to everyone that she is one of Russia's emerging stars.
"I'm looking forward to competing in August with the U20 Russian national team," she said.
"Together with my teammates, we have to do our best to continue the tradition of reaching the final as Russia has done three of the last four years.
"At the same time, I want to prove that I'm worthy of gaining a spot on next summer's Russian senior women's national team."
Tikhonenko and Co will start as one of the favorites when the U20 European Championship gets underway in Hungary in August.
TO TARGOVISTE ON LOAN
|The Russian center had an extremely hectic summer last year, rushing from the U19 World Championship to the U18 European Championship. This time around she can focus on just one competition, the U18 in Hungary|
After the tournament is over, Tikhonenko will not return to Sparta&K but instead leave for a loan spell to Municipal Targoviste in Romania.
Targoviste are the league champions and have caused a big stir by bringing in former Sony Athinaikos, Lotos Gdynia and Fenerbahce boss George Dikeoulakos as their new coach.
"I'm very excited about playing for Targoviste next season," Tikhonenko said.
"Last summer, I played with our national team in Romania and I really liked the country and now I will have the opportunity to play for a very good team which showed how professional it is by not only signing one of the best European coaches as well as some great players.
"I hope that while I'll be learning, I will also be able to help my new club.
"At the same time, I'd like to thank (Sparta&K general director) Anna Arkhipova for giving me this unique opportunity and I promise her she will be proud of me."
When asked about Tikhonenko, Sparta&K general manager Steve Costalas said: "Ksenia has always been a leader on every national team she has competed for.
"We're sure that she'll also show her talent with the Russian U20 team while also working hard to help her teammates reach the desired result.
"What also is important for us is that Ksenia is the product of our youth program and she exemplifies everything the program stands for."