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Batum still in with chance of playing at OQT as France announce 17-man preliminary squad
PARIS (2016 Rio Olympics) - France have not given up hope that veteran shooting guard Nicolas Batum will be able to feature at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila. Les Bleus have included the 27-year-old in the 17-man preliminary squad for the event, which is to run 5-10 July.
Batum's agent had previously indicated that his client, a free agent who just had a terrific first season with the Charlotte Hornets, would be in the United States resolving his NBA future and that the paperwork would not be finalized in time for him to play.
However, it is understood that the French player and the Hornets will quickly agree terms on a new deal and that could could give France enough time to obtain insurance for Batum and allow him to take part in some of the OQT games.
Although the situation has been complicated, Batum is such a talent that France are doing everything they can to have him at the OQT, where they will take on the Philippines and New Zealand in Group B and then potentially face Canada, Senegal or Turkey in the knockout stages. Batum did not make the All-Star Five of EuroBasket 2015 but he did achieve that feat the year before at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
What is certain is that Batum will be in Pau, France, when the national team launches its preparations 10 June. He will do physical work but not take part in drills or scrimmages in order to avoid contact.
Also on the list of players is center Alexis Ajinca, who played for the team when it won EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia. Ajinca is a must-have for France with towering pivot Rudy Gobert not available for the OQT.
Perhaps most important for coach Vincent Collet is that he will have players that have featured for several years and helped France climb to No. 5 in the FIBA World Ranking.
Nando de Colo, who made the All-Star Five at last year's EuroBasket and also scooped the honor of Euroleague Final Four MVP last weekend after leading CSKA Moscow to the title, is among them.
Collet said on Thursday "the core will help compensate for the short preparation" for the OQT. As part of the build-up, France will play friendly games against other sides preparing for the OQT in Belgrade. The venues for those warm-up games will be where Collet and his squad have training camps.
France 17-player preliminary squad for 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila: Alexis Ajinca, Nicolas Batum, Rodrigue Beaubois, Fabien Causeur, Nando De Colo, Boris Diaw, Antoine Diot, Mickael Gelabale, Thomas Heurtel, Mouhammadou Jaiteh, Charles Kahudi, Joffrey Lauvergne, Adrien Moerman, Yakuba Ouattara, Tony Parker, Florent Pietrus and Kim Tillie.