PUERTO MONTT (2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - Argentina's tournament ended in victory today, an 89-69 triumph over Slovenia, a performance that secured 13th place and further enhanced the reputation of point guard Melisa Gretter.
Gretter had already made quite an impression at the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women in Chile, and she destroyed Slovenia with 25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
She scored 7 points and handed out 2 assists in the final five minutes of the game as Argentina turned a one point lead into a 20-point drubbing. It was the sort of performance that has made opposition coaches take notice all tournament.
Canada coach Rich Chambers put it quite simply - "Argentina has a fabulous point guard," he said - while USA coach Jennifer Rizzotti was more expansive in her praise.
"I have a lot of respect for her game and my heart goes out to her that she can't continue in this competition," she said after the two teams met on the last day of the preliminary round.
"I love her, I think she is a great player and she played her heart out today. She played almost the full 40 minutes and you never would have thought because she never looked tired, she never gave up, she never reduced her intensity."
High praise indeed, which caught the 167cm point guard, from Santa Fe in northern Argentina, by surprise. "That is really unexpected, but it makes me very happy," she said.
Despite her team's struggles Gretter has excelled, averaging 13.8 ppg, 5.6 apg, 5.2 rpg and 2.4 spg, ranking third in the tournament in assists and sixth in steals.
After her team's victory over Egypt on Monday, Gretter took time out with www.fiba.com to discuss her childhood basketball hero, love of passing and hopes for the future.
FIBA: Congratulations on another good game today. You look so natural on the court, when did you start playing?
GRETTER: I started playing when I was seven years old, playing with the guys. Then when I was 12 I started playing with the women.
FIBA: Who were you favourite basketball players that you used to watch when you were growing up?
I really liked Pepe Sanchez.
He was a great point guard, and you play that position so well, creating shots for your teammates. Have you always loved passing?
Yes. I love to score, but the thing I love the most is to make the team play well, that's why I love passing.
From a young girl watching Pepe Sanchez play, now you are playing at your second world championship for your country, what is that like?
It was always my dream to play for Argentina, and at 14 years old I was first selected. It is such an honour for me to play at a world championship, I worked very hard to get there. We didn't get the result we wanted, but it was still a great experience.
USA coach Jennifer Rizzotti said she loves your game, that you play your heart out and that you are a great player. How does that make you feel?
That is really unexpected, but it makes me very happy. I will keep training and doing my best to be a good player.
What are your hopes for the future, to play at the world championship, Olympics, in the WNBA?
I want to keep being a part of the Argentina national team, and to keep growing as a basketball player. I would love to (play in the WNBA), but I am still very young. That seems like a long way away, but it would be a great honour for me to do that.
Finally, was it nice to finally get a win tonight against Egypt?
We came for more, but it was good. We will keep fighting until the end, including the next game tomorrow, when it will get tougher.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images