29 July, 2017
06 August
14 Jaylen Hoard (FRA)
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Hoard believes team chemistry will help France in hunt for repeat

PARIS (FIBA U18 European Championship 2017) - France's team at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017 will feature an element of chemistry that Jaylen Hoard believes will lead the country to a repeat of the title.

France come into the July 29-August 6 tournament in Slovak Republic as the reigning champions after Frank Ntilikina and Sekou Doumbouya guided France in December to their first U18 title since 2006. And France's goal for this summer is clear.

"Our goal is to win the gold medal," said Hoard, who was included in France's 16-man preliminary squad for the competition, where France face Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latvia and Slovak Republic in Group D.

France's preliminary roster for the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017
Maxime Abah Joel Ayayi Timothee Bazille Ludovic Beyhurst
Yanik Blanc Sofiane Briki Mathis Dossou-Yovo Ivan Fevrier
Calvin Hippolyte Jaylen Hoard Florian Leopold Babacar Niasse
Joshua Mballa Yves Pons Louis Rucklin Olivier Sarr

Team chemistry will undoubtedly play a major role as a large group of these players will be spending their third summer together. Eight of the 16 were teammates on the FIBA U16 European Championship 2015 team that finished fifth to qualify for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2016. Nine of them played together last summer at the U17 global spectacle in Zaragoza, where France lost an overtime thriller to Lithuania in the Quarter-Finals to keep them from their first top-four showing.

Hoard was a leader on the France team in Zaragoza, leading the team in scoring with 22.4 points a game while also finishing with 5.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.7 steals. The Le Havre-native started the tournament off with a bang with 41 points against Korea, which tied the tournament scoring record only to see it later bested by Bosnia and Herzegovina's Dzanan Musa. The 6ft 8in (2.02m) small forward Hoard knows the family feel will go a long way in improving France's chances in Slovak Republic, saying: "Just the fact that most of us have been playing together for a long time will give us good chemistry."

Hoard will actually be returning to Europe to see his former teammates after playing last season at a high school in the United States. Not only did he play with many of the France players at the national team level, but before heading to the United States Hoard was teammates with them at the French national academy CFBB at the INSEP headquarters.

As good as France were at Zaragoza 2016, Hoard believes they will be better in Bratislava and Piestany.

"We'll have Yanik Blanc and Sofiane Briki back after they missed out on last year's FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup. So that will add more depth to the team," Hoard said.

Blanc and Briki are two talented playmakers and shooters who also have a major success to call upon when the tournament tips off. Blanc was named to the All-Tournament Team as CFBB won the Adidas Next Generation Tournament - played among clubs - along with fellow U18 national team nominees Briki, Joel Ayayi, Timothee Bazille, Mathis Dossou-Yovo and Ivan Fevrier - the latter being named the tournament's MVP. Fevrier also played on the team that won the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 in December in Turkey.

Ayayi and Dossou-Yovo are two of five players in the French preliminary squad who will be bottom level players being born in 2000. Those two teamed together to play last summer at the FIBA U16 European Championship along with Florian Leopold and Babacar Niasse. Also back in the mix is the thrilling Yves Pons, who is a walking highlight reel with his spectacular dunks and blocks. Pons, who won the FIBA U16 European Championship 2014 as a bottom level player, wowed fans last summer at Zaragoza 2016 but has battled injuries once again this season.

French U18 coach Frederic Crapez will have an exciting group of players to choose from in forming a team that can attack teams in a lot of ways and get after opponents on defense.

When asked what France must do to win the title, Hoard said: "Play hard and play together. And be a problem on defense."

The built-in team chemistry over the past couple of years will be a big help in accomplishing that.