Follow FIBA on Facebook
Allemand adjusting to the basketball pause button
LYON (France) - You could forgive Julie Allemand for feeling more frustrated than most players about the enforced hiatus being endured by athletes globally as basketball is put on hold.
The Belgian playmaker had started unfolding what was set to be the biggest year of her blossoming career, prior to the unscripted arrival of Coronavirus (COVID-19) which is currently derailing those best laid plans.
Allemand was set to step up with the Belgian Cats in Tokyo to make history via first-ever Olympic appearance, as well as eying up a potential maiden appearance at the EuroLeague Women Final Four, a French League championship title with LDLC ASVEL Feminin and her first-ever WNBA experience at the Indiana Fever.
LIFE OF AN ATHLETE IN LOCKDOWN
Like many others, the guard is now dealing with life in lockdown and Allemand has lifted the lid on her own experiences so far, as she contemplates when she will next be on the court and tries finding positives from a challenging situation.
"Everything happened very fast and nobody was ready for this," she said.
"TONY PARKER, OUR PRESIDENT, WAS REALLY NICE WITH US, AND ESPECIALLY WITH THE FOREIGN PLAYERS."
"I remember the day after the EuroLeague Women Quarter-Final game against Nadezhda with ASVEL, I decided to do a weight session at the gym and then we found out that everything would be complicated. The French league firstly decided to cancel the game for the following weekend and then the two following games after that.
"Tony Parker, our President, was really nice with us, and especially with the foreign players. Because of the situation, he allowed us to go back home, even if the French league hadn't yet decided anything about the rest of the season.
"For personal reasons, I decided to stay in France. I'm not alone and I feel good here, plus Belgium is really not far from France, so it's not a big deal for me to be lockdown here - even if I can't move from my place for the moment. Thank goodness we have Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp and everything else to keep in touch with our family and friends though," continued Allemand.
"I have no idea about when I will start to play ball again. That's why I have to get ready for every different options, which means I have a schedule from my physical coach from Lyon that I do every day. To be honest, I took a week off first. I really needed it – both mentally and also physically. I think it's also the moment to heal the small injuries and to take care of my body. After that initial week, I felt the urge to do some exercises again. So now, every morning, I'm happy to wake up knowing that a session is waiting for me.
"We will always try finding some positive things. The first one as I explained, was to rest my body and take care of myself. The season in France is really long and with EuroLeague Women games to play as well, it's obviously harder.
"After the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifiers in Ostend, I was surfing on a positive vibe, even if it was intense. But also before the apparition of the COVID-19 here in Europe, I was feeling tired. So yes, I rested and I now work in a very different way. The lockdown has made me change my way of practicing.
"On the other hand, I also had to find ways to stay busy, because when my workout is done, the day seems still so long. So, for example, I've been doing a puzzle, cleaning up the apartment, playing other games and doing those things that we usually don't have the time for. Of course, without forgetting to take time to talk with family and our friends."
TOKYO COUNTDOWN EXTENSION, EYES ON SYDNEY
They say all good things come to those who wait. For Allemand and her Belgian teammates, the anticipation of going to the Olympics for the first time was already at fever pitch, having punched their ticket on home soil, in front of family, friends and a raucous home crowd. Now they must come to terms with the postponement until next year and Allemand admitted it hasn't quite sunk in just yet.
She revealed: "I think I still don't actually realize I won't go to Tokyo this summer since this global situation just seems unreal. It's weird because when I heard about the postponement, I had no expression to offer and I still really don't have any.
"WHEN I THINK ABOUT OSTEND, I STILL GET GOOSEBUMPS. IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE AND COMPLETELY UNFORGETTABLE"
"I think I was a little bit prepared for it and when I see what is happening in the world now, it seems almost normal they took the decision.
"For our team, this is disappointing and we're all really sad. We have made so many efforts to qualify for the Olympics and we really wanted it this summer. We were so close to our dream and now, we will have to wait one more year. That's a lot of time but we know it is the best decision for every athlete.
View this post on Instagram
"When I think about Ostend, I still get goosebumps - it was unbelievable and completely unforgettable," added Allemand.
"I'm really proud of my team and especially how we reacted after the loss against Canada. We wanted the Olympic Games and we went for it. But without our fans, it wouldn't have been the same.”
One silver lining of the lockdown is that players and coaches of elite nations have been given something else to focus on after it was revealed that the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 will be held in Sydney, Australia.
Fans will recall that Allemand put herself on the center of the radar with her record-equalling assists show at the 2018 edition in Tenerife when she propelled Belgium to the Semi-Finals during their debut at the tournament. Now she is only just getting her head around the fact that Belgium should be a regular at all the flagship events.
"When it comes to the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in 2022, it's hard to think about it in some ways, because we've started from nowhere with the Belgian national team," she explained.
"We have worked for so many things like our bronze medal at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2017, fourth place at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018, fifth place at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019 and now the Olympics.
"But, I do hope we can keep this dynamic and we will be able to be in Australia. I'm sure that if we do get there, everything will be different to 2018 as every team will be ready to play against us and it will be more difficult than before."
THE WNBA UNKNOWNS
Before Allemand gets to pull on a Belgian jersey, she is hoping she will be sat in the locker room with the Indiana Fever anticipating a WNBA debut – even if she has been left sweating on whether a major landmark in her career will actually materialize.
"I'm so excited about it and I really hope I will be able to go there – I am just hoping the situation will get better," she declared.
"I think the WNBA will be an amazing experience for me and it will take me out of my comfort zone and allow me to learn more new things. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, but I really want to do something. I don't want to go there having the feeling that I am not helping my team to be better.
"WHEN I WOKE UP I HAD LOTS OF NOTIFICATIONS ON MY PHONE. IT WAS ONLY THEN WHEN I UNDERSTOOD I HAD BEEN DRAFTED."
"I'm sure this experience will make me grow as a basketball player, but especially as a human being. I really want to learn about this American mentality, because I think this is something I really have to add in my game if I want to be better. I can't wait to play with and against the best players in the world."
With the 2020 WNBA draft rapidly approaching, it has stirred up memories for Allemand from the time she was selected back in 2016.
She recalled: "I remember I actually only saw it in the morning when I woke up and had lots of notifications on my phone. It was only then when I understood I'd been been drafted, because I really didn't expect that.
"I knew I was way too young, but the coach didn't want me directly that season and that was a good thing. However, I was still really happy about it and I felt blessed and I took it as a new motivation."
Fast forward to 2020 and Allemand must be patient as she sits tight, waiting to see what unfolds in these coming months. She's drawing strength by reflecting on her recent campaign with LDLC ASVEL Feminin, which had been positive on both the EuroLeague Women and LFB fronts.
"I'm satisfied with my season in both competitions and especially how I finished it," mused Allemand.
"The beginning of the season was tough and I wasn't happy about my performances, because it felt like I was missing something in my game.
"But during the second part of the season and with the return of Alysha Clark from injury adding even more help and chemistry for our team, I felt great on the court again," she smiled.
For now, all Allemand can do is to keep the faith and concentrate on picking up where she left off when the moment comes - whenever that may be.