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Turkey 2014 bound stars on FIBA Europe Awards shortlist
MUNICH (FIBA World Championship for Women) - Players expected to illuminate the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women in Turkey (27 September-5 October) dominate the list of candidates for the prestigious FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year accolade.
Of the 10 players put forward, seven are likely to be starring on Turkish soil, along with a couple of nominees for the Young Women's Player of the Year trophy.
The 2012 Women's Player of the Year, Celine Dumerc, is nominated again after helping Les Bleues to a silver medal on home soil at EuroBasket Women 2013 and also firing an injury-ravaged Tango Bourges to a creditable third place at the EuroLeague Women Final Eight.
French national team colleague Sandrine Gruda was crowned a EuroLeague Women champion with hosts UMMC Ekaterinburg and also showed her qualities at EuroBasket Women. She is bidding for her third award in total, having won the Young Women's Player award in 2006 and then the senior version in 2009.
Valeriane Ayayi is the third member of the French EuroBasket Women team to be in consideration as she is on the Young Women's list, having also claimed a silver medal at the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women.
Unsurprisingly, Sancho Lyttle could be a big contender having been named the EuroBasket Women MVP in the wake of some phenomenal displays to lead Spain to gold in Orchies. She is also joined by Spanish team-mate Alba Torrens, who like Gruda, know what it is like to have already won the awards as both a young player and senior in 2009 and 2011.
Jelena Milovanovic starred for Serbia as they made their historic run to the EuroBasket Women Semi-Finals and also nailed down a first-ever place at the FIBA World Championship for Women.
Turkey meanwhile are represented by the irrepressible Birsel Vardarli, whose understated style but significant influence helped her team take bronze in France.
The veteran experience of Yelena Leuchanka helped Belarus land a precious berth for next year, with the center returning from a spell playing in China to lead her country at EuroBasket Women 2013, averaging 11.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
Leuchanka has now returned to Europe for the current club season and is easing her way into a leadership role with EuroLeague Women competitors Good Angels Kosice, where she is averaging a near double-double campaign.
She could also be joined by team-mate Maryia Papova, who has been put up in the Young Women's Player category after posting 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game at the U20 European Championship Women.
Other players up for the award but who won't be stepping out in Istanbul or Ankara, include Great Britain shooting guard Johannah Leedham, Swedish ace Frida Eldebrink who made the All-Tournament Team at EuroBasket Women and also Italian playmaker Giorgia Sottana, who led her team to the brink of punching their ticket for Turkey 2014.
The other candidates for the Young Women's Player gong include FIBA U19 Championship for Women participants Leticia Romero and Astou Ndour (both Spain), Dalia Belickaite (Lithuania) and Olivia Epoupa (France).
There were also nominations for Aleksandra Crvendakic (Serbia), Artemis Spanou (Greece) and finally Olcay Cakir, who could yet make a run of form with Fenerbahce to try and force her way onto the end of the senior Turkish bench next year.