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Alina Iagupova (UKR) - EuroBasket Women 2013 Qualification Round
UKR - Camera lens to focus on Ukrainian prospect Iagupova

VANNES (EuroBasket Women/FIBA World Championship for Women) - There is a real sense of anticipation ahead of the major tournament debut of the explosive Alina Iagupova as she prepares to underline exactly why she was voted FIBA Europe Young Women’s Player of the Year and drafted into the WNBA by Los Angeles Sparks.

The shooting guard formally receives the personal accolade on Saturday, the opening day of EuroBasket Women in Vannes, as Ukraine face EuroBasket Women 2011 silver medallists Turkey in a tough looking Group A opener.

And, whilst her WNBA draft was nullified due to an eligibility issue, that hasn't dampened down expectations, but merely added to the intrigue as she prepares to test herself at the senior level, having torn up the U20 European Championship Women last summer.

The 21-year-old averaged a simply stunning 27.6 points, 10 .1 rebounds and 5.3 rebounds in Debrecen and that also coincided with 14.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game en-route to France as she showed real maturity to help lead the team in the Qualification Round.

Ukraine head coach Vadim Czeczuro is confident that despite some astronomical individual numbers, Iagupova is only focused on the strong team-ethic which he believes will provide the main backbone of their challenge.

"I have spoken to Alina about the WNBA draft and she actually knows very little about it, only what she has read or seen on television," he said.

"She is a team-player and this is exactly what we need, because during qualification last year, we showed what is possible when we play as a team.

"I have many good players to choose from and we must show a lot of heart and play together to be successful.

"We know it will be difficult, but we have confidence," added Czeczuro.

It isn't only Iagupova who will be making her debut, since five other players are in the same situation, which means exactly half of the entire Ukrainian roster are EuroBasket Women rookies.

They will be tasked in racking up their first win in the Final Round in almost a decade, since the last time Ukraine tasted success was way back in 2003, when they beat Israel.

Whatever Czeczuro insists about the need to divert attention away from Iagupova and place it on the team generally, surely with an exciting talent like her onboard, perhaps Ukraine can improve a miserable record which reads 15 losses in their last 17 games at the EuroBasket Women.

Five places for the FIBA World Championship for Women - which will be staged in Turkey (27 September-5 October 2014) - are up for grabs at the EuroBasket Women.


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