A 16-Year-Old Veteran

18.08.2011

U16 WOMEN

By Mark Woods

If they re-made the movie ‘We Know What You Did Last Summer' and cast Zofia Hruscáková as the central character, it would be no horror show.

More an epic adventure of a rising star, crossing Europe in search of treasure.

6. Zofia Hruscáková (Slovak Republic)
At age 15 Zofia Hruscáková featured in Slovakia's U18 squad last summer

The 16-year-old Slovakian has barely felt her feet touch the ground in recent months, taking her prodigious talents from one city to another, her passport never far from her side. Currently leading her team into the concluding weekend of the U16 European Championship for Women in Sardinia, it will soon be time to go home. A change of scene, because this - incredibly - is the third continental tournament in three different age categories that the 1.90m centre has savoured in just over a year.

The collection started last August, in her homeland, for the U18s, where - with the benefit of home support - they came ninth with Hruscáková, then just 15, claiming 5 points and as many boards per game.

First up this summer was Serbia, for the U20 European's in July.

Playing alongside players four years her senior, she still averaged 7.4 rebounds per game as the Slovaks came 13th overall.

There was no break then before she was despatched to Italy, this time to join up with her peers. "I am quite tired," Hruscáková admitted as Slovakia prepares to begin the ninth place classification round in Cagliari on Friday. "But I'm so happy that I have the opportunity to be here, playing alongside my own group. I feel good about being among other 16-year-olds, rather than girls who are older. The U20s were a good experience for me. But it was a little scary."

With the two elder teams, there was the benefit of consistency with the same coach, Martin Pospisil. In Italy, Michal Porubcan is in charge of a squad that represents an investment in the long-term future. There are differences in the approaches of both men. A plus, says Hruscáková. It is another opportunity to acquire fresh insights.

She has constantly been learning, ever since she first encountered the sport at the age of eight in her hometown of Kosice. "It feels like a long time ago," she recalled. "I can't remember the very first time I picked up a basketball. Until then, I'd played handball. But somehow, I changed. And it felt natural to me."

Coming through the ranks with Sport Kosice, she has got used to playing with others of a more advanced age, making her senior debut before her 16th birthday. It has not always been easy, she admitted. This season, she hopes to become a regular part of the senior team's rotation in the Slovak League. She has ambitions to play EuroLeague Women too. That might have to wait. Or it might not. "Maybe it will happen. But I will see."

Firstly, she will finish her current European odyssey in the coming days. There is disappointment, she acknowledged, that the Slovaks - despite her mammoth production - missed out on the knock-out phase that will decide the medals. She accepts both the responsibility and also the burden.

"Here, I'm the leader and the captain," she said. "And so I'm not happy with the results. Losing to the Czech Republic, losing to Russia, was difficult." There are three games left to chase consolation. "We will play now for ninth place. And we will do everything we can to get it."

A potentially impressive future awaits. Hruscáková is wise enough to know there is always an awkward transition from junior star to fully-grown achiever. Another winter of hard work looms, the prospect of more European adventures in the future. Beyond that, she states, who knows?

"I can't think about things like the WNBA yet," she underlined. "I'm only 16-year-old. I don't know what the future will bring in five years' time. My dream is to play there, to play at an Olympics, everything."

A veteran already, showing a vision beyond her years.


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