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France head coach Collet: ''This team is magnificent... I can't wait for the next window''
LIMOGES (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - There have been challenges to overcome for France in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers but overcome them they did.
In the heat of battle, times have been difficult yet as time has worn on, and following France's qualification for next year's World Cup in China, head coach Vincent Collet has developed a healthy respect for the new competition system that ushered in a new era of basketball for the country.
Collet, after steering France to victories at the Czech Republic over the home side - to punch their ticket for the World Cup - and in Limoges over Bulgaria during the fifth window, has paused to reflect on everything related to the World Cup Qualifiers, including what a large group of players have done for the national team program, and the country.
"I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE NEXT WINDOW... THE SERIOUSNESS THAT HAS BEEN ON DISPLAY SINCE (BEATING CZECH REPUBLIC) - NOTABLY THE TWO TRAINING SESSIONS - IT ALL SAYS A LOT ABOUT THIS GROUP, ITS HUMILITY, ITS WILLINGNESS AND ENTHUSIASM. THESE ARE VALUES THAT HELPED US ACCOMPLISH WHAT WE'VE DONE.”
Speaking after Monday night's 77-53 triumph over Bulgaria in Limoges, Collet said: “This team is magnificent because it's always given everything within its capacities. And we realize that it produces some very interesting things - even if we know all too well that we're missing some great players.
"Despite this, we're extremely happy with what the players have done and you have to give them credit. They did an admirable job and did so with the quality of not having any ego. None of them is worrying about what's to come."
What's to come is more competition in February. France will play at Finland and then host the Czech Republic in Nantes to wrap up the European Qualifiers. Then there will be a draw for the World Cup in March.
Next will be a squad selection for the World Cup and ultimately, a roster will be finalized.
All players, whether they have featured in the Qualifiers or not, are to be considered for a place on the team bound for China.
Collet says everyone should right now examine all that is good about the Qualifiers. He thinks France should celebrate the achievement of making it to the World Cup and also be proud of those that have made it possible for the country to be in next year's showpiece event.
He talked about Yakuba Ouattara, a 26-year-old who made his senior national team bow in the win over the Czechs but played just 4 minutes, but then had 17 points in 16 minutes against Bulgaria. Included in his 8-of-9 effort from the floor was an alley-oop dunk in the fourth quarter that got everyone in the arena, including his teammates, on their feet.
.@JOrousselle throws it ⬆️ Ouattara throws it ⬇️ , does a pull-up and some #flexin 💪. #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse@FRABasketball 🇫🇷— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) December 3, 2018
📝 https://t.co/pBU9D7bidS pic.twitter.com/dbORGEAfcS
"What I loved tonight was the joy displayed by the players on the bench when Yakuba Ouattara started making baskets," Collet said. "For me, that's the mark of a great team. And of course we can find a stronger team than this one from a pure basketball perspective but they have the behavior of a big team. They play for one another. They're happy when their teammate shines and that's exceptional. With every basket by Yakuba, they were exchanging high fives, jumping off the bench and waiting for the next (basket). It's a joy to see this."
Collet also expressed a real enthusiasm for the European Qualifiers. Yes, he is a very busy man since he also holds the reins of SIG Strasbourg, a side in France's top flight and the Basketball Champions League. Even with those additional commitments at SIG, Collet finds himself wanting more of the Qualifiers.
"WE WILL NEED THE VALUES THAT WE'VE DISPLAYED SINCE THE START OF THESE WINDOWS. WE'LL HAVE TO TRY AND HOLD ON TO THEM WHATEVER OUR ROSTER IN CHINA LOOKS LIKE."
“I’ve enjoyed myself all week. I can't wait for the next window, It really was a week during which we had a great time," the 55-year-old said. "I would have been disappointed had we not won tonight (against Bulgaria). After winning on Friday and the seriousness that has been on display since - notably the two training sessions - it all says a lot about this group, its humility, its willingness and its enthusiasm. These are values that have helped us accomplish what we've done.
"We know all too well that other values will be needed in order to perform well at the World Cup but it doesn't matter. We shouldn't deprive ourselves from saying it was good and it was enjoyable.”
France won't know until March who their First Round opponents will be at the World Cup. What Collet does know, though, is that to be successful, the team that plays in the Far East has to have the same mentality as the one that's been so good in the Qualifiers, a side that has won nine of its 10 games and showed plenty of character.
"We will need the values that we've displayed since the start of these windows," Collet warned. "We'll have to try and hold on to them whatever our roster in China looks like. That will be the price to pay if we hope to measure up to big teams and having a destiny."