12 - 20
August 2016
11 Joel Ayayi (FRA)
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Joel Ayayi following his sister on the path to success

RADOM (FIBA U16 European Championship 2016) - While his sister is competing in the Olympics in Rio, Joel Ayayi is making a name for himself some 6,000+ miles away.

The 1.93m guard has helped France reach the Quarter-Finals in Radom, while Valeriane Ayayi is within touching distance of an Olympic medal after making the Semi-Finals with the women’s senior national team.

"I’m really happy for her," Joel said of his sister’s Olympic participation.

"I’ve not been able to see all the games, but I’m very proud and all the family is proud of her and hope she does very well."

The 22-year-old Olympian has been a great inspiration to her younger brother and has passed on some of the knowledge accumulated from playing in a number of major tournaments.

There is a special bond between the two and Ayayi is only too willing to heed the advice he is given.

"She is very important to me," he said.

"She has taught me a lot of things. I always followed her to practice and games growing up and she has really helped me and still sends me messages now to help me.

"[Before the tournament] she told me to take it game-by-game and the most important thing was to be better in the next game you play.

"I didn’t start very well, but now I am getting better which is a good thing."

Ayayi is competing in his first European Championship and is averaging 13.2 points and nine rebounds per game through four games so far.

The CFBB-player has proved to be an active presence at both ends of the floor; coming up with timely plays and crucial contributions for his side.

Ayayi recorded his second double-double, in the Round of 16 on Tuesday, with 14 points and 10 boards as well as a joint tournament-best tally of six steals.

"This is a good opportunity to show myself in this tournament," he declared.

"I am a confident player and the coach gives me a lot of credit which helps.

"I try to be aggressive all over the court. To be a good player, you need to be strong on offence and defence and I try to be the best on defence on my team."

France got through the Group Phase with a 1-2 record that included losses against Montenegro and Lithuania before producing a much-improved performance in a 59-43 victory over Greece.

Amongst the eight Quarter-Finalists, France rank second in most turnovers (82) and second in lowest 3PT% (22) - coincidentally behind their next opponents, Croatia, in both categories.

And Ayayi believes these are two areas that the team needs to improve upon if they are to go all the way and emulate the title-winning side of 2014.

"I think that we need to do better in taking care of the ball and even though we have defended well, we can still improve," he said.

"Offensively we have not been shooting the ball well, but we know that we have a lot of good shooters and the time will come.

"We know we didn’t start the tournament well, but now we have a good chance of fighting for the title and we are very pleased to be in the Quarter-Finals.

"It was our best performance [against Greece] and it gives us more confidence to take into the next games."