World Basketball 2022: who is Iliana Rupert, the new leader of the Blue?

The interior is the kind of woman in a hurry, who has no time to lose. At only 21 years old, the 1.94m player will join the France group just hours after winning the WNBA title, the women’s NBA and the most prestigious trophy in clubs, with the Las Vegas Aces. Only two French players (Sabrina Palie in 2006 and Sandrine Gruda in 2016) had achieved such a performance before. Rupert will arrive Wednesday morning in Australia to find the national team, the conclusion of a season lived at a hundred miles an hour. And which could end in apotheosis.

After European silver and Olympic bronze, the French women’s team is going to the other side of the globe to complete its collection of medals. Les Bleues will try to live up to their status in Australia during the World Cup, which they have not finished on the podium since the very first edition, almost 70 years ago (3rd in 1953).

Their mix of players experienced in major competitions and a new wave of talent stamped Paris 2024 made them natural contenders for the charm. But the cascading packages upset the plans of coach Jean-Aimé Toupane, forced to do without the majority of his major players.

This year, Iliana Rupert did not miss anything. Champion of France and winner of the Eurocoupe – the second European cup – with Bourges, being elected best player of the two competitions, then WNBA champion, here she goes without the slightest day of break to complete a little more an already substantial record . And as with the Tangos berruyères, Rupert is now expected as a manager, and not just as the little young girl who is rising.

Because at the end of a very successful exercise individually (13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds in the Women’s League), the strong winger finds himself propelled as one of the main offensive options of the France team. Sandrine Gruda, Endy Miyem, Alix Duchet, then Marine Johannes since Tuesday morning: these are four of the five best scorers of the Bleues in Tokyo who are missing due to injury. Only the naturalized Gabby Williams remains, who is also coming out of a long season between Europe (winner of the Euroleague, the main competition on the continent, being voted best player in the Final 4) and the United States. And Rupert, brought earlier than expected to take on a new dimension.

Being ahead of schedule has almost become a habit for the future player of Italian club Virtus Bologna. We don’t go without reason from being the best young player in LFB to being the best player in the championship in one season. Iliana Rupert has even had some experience in Blue when it comes to winning earlier than expected. In 2016, she took part in the Euro U16 with a year in advance. This upgrade is a revelation. “I had a leadership role, especially offensively, I entered the major five, she then evoked for West France. In my situation, you want to surpass yourself and give everything for your team.“A year later, she crushed this same competition, this time being the same age as her opponents, and signed the double: the gold medal and the title of best player of the tournament.

Iliana walks in the family footsteps. That of his mother Elham, also a basketball player. But above all from his father, Thierry, a former French international in the 2000s (35 selections), and who died suddenly following a heart attack in 2013, at only 35 years old. From her father, she inherited obvious physical predispositions and a taste for indoor games. She adds to the innate sense of defense of the former Manceau a natural talent in attack, and an ever more impressive facility.

Iliana Rupert was only 13 years old when the regional committee of Sarthe offered her to do the leather with the senior team of her club of Coulaines, in National 3, the fourth level in France. She notably signed a peak at 38 points, alongside the one who will then be her friend in the racket in Bourges and in the France team, Alexia Chartereau.

“She’s so young, and so smart. She understands the game very well. She can get as good as she wants.”

Kelsey Plum, American international and teammate of Iliana Rupert at the Las Vegas Aces

in a report on Canal +

Among the “big ones”, her precocity does not prevent her from being patient, and from working to develop a potential whose limits we do not yet see. In the WNBA, she is still only a rotation in the making with the Aces, with whom she has so far spent more time working on her cardio than walking the floors. What leave him a little energy for this World Cup.

Called to the Bleues since she was 18, she had only had the right to crumbs (10.8 minutes on average) last year at the Tokyo Olympics, behind the immovable duo Endy Miyem – Sandrine Gruda. A role of joker which she was very well accustomed to dropping in particular 11 points in 14 minutes in the United States, the benchmark for women’s basketball. “Next game? I’ll play maybe 40 minutes, or a second“, she then advanced serenely. It will undoubtedly be quite different during this World Cup, and this from Thursday against Australia (12:30 p.m.).

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