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The DODDS-Europe All-Europe girls’ basketball team has a lot of room for growth as just two of 2008’s top 10 players are seniors.

The rest of the squad is made up of eight juniors and two freshmen.

Moreover, eight teams were represented in the the top 10 — three from Division I, three from Division II, three from Division III and one from Division IV.

“I think it’s a sign of transformation,” said Adrian Crawford, coach of D-II champion Mannheim and a member of the five-coach selection panel. “This year was the most balanced of any season in my seven years over here.”

In 2007, seven of the top 10 players chosen came from the larger schools — Divisions I and II. Four of them were seniors. In 2006, when Kaiserslautern placed three players on the first team, the top 10 included seven schools and seven seniors. This year, only two schools — D-I champion Kaiserslautern and D-III champion Baumholder — placed more than one player in the top 10.

According to Crawford, part of the reason was a more level playing field. The regional play concept reintroduced last season tested players against all levels of competition.

“This year (D-III champion) Baumholder could have played with anybody,” Crawford said. “Mannheim could have played with anybody. And they’re smaller schools.”

K-town, which lost once all season, placed juniors Kiara Sanchez-Herrera and Latanya Wilson in the top 10; Baumholder landed two freshmen — Veronne Clark and Elizabeth Styles — on the first team.

“I saw [Clark and Styles] play in the first game of the season against Ramstein,” said selection panelist and Kaiserslautern coach Corey Sullivan, “and I said, ‘What are we going to do?’”

Sullivan figured out what to do against Styles, a 5-1 guard who averaged 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 steals, and four assists per game, and the 5-3 Clark (15.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, five assists and 4.4 steals), well enough to defeat Baumholder twice in regional play, 57-48 and 50-46.

But it wasn’t easy.

“They gave us fits,” Sullivan said.

One of Sullivan’s two first-teamers, Wilson, who transferred to K-town from Hanau, represented the All-Europe old guard this time around. She, junior Ashley Hicks of Vilseck and senior Sierra Stayberg of Ramstein were the only holdovers from last year’s first team. Darien Moon of Naples and Fallon Puppolo of Heidelberg made the All-Europe second team for the second straight season.

Not that being a 2007 pick swayed the committee in any way, nor the position played.

“The committee’s job,” Crawford said, “was to find the 20 best players in Europe.”

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