05 - 10
July 2016
4 Thomas Heurtel (FRA)
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Heurtel wary of Canada’s physicality

MANILA (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Reserve guard Thomas Heurtel stepped up big time in France’s win over Turkey in the Semi-Finals of the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila. Heurtel’s 17 points off the bench sparked the French past the Turks despite a slow start.

France were expected to figure prominently in the OQT, and, so far, Les Bleus have not disappointed. They survived stiff challenges in the group stage before unloading their might on Turkey last night. They go up against Canada in tonight’s Final, where only one team will make it to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The focus will be on the NBA players from both teams in the Final, but relatively unheralded guys like Kim Tillie, Melvin Ejim and, of course, Heurtel may just steal the the spotlight and win the day.

Heurtel talked to FIBA.com ahead of the Final.

FIBA.com: How do you feel about how you performed in the Semi-Final against Turkey?
Heurtel: My teammates and I played well tonight. They trusted me, gave me the ball and I was lucky enough to make some baskets. I’m very happy about that, and I am happy about the victory also. Next, we have a very tough game against a very tough team, Canada. We’ll try to play our kind of game right from the first second, and, hopefully, we win.

FIBA.com: What is France’s biggest reason for being unbeaten so far in the OQT?
Heurtel: Well, in our first two games, we played against two teams who were good but not as strong as us. Philippines were the hosts and New Zealand were good, but, to be honest, this game against Turkey was really our first big challenge in this tournament. We know that Canada have a great team, and we will just try to come out strong and play our game.

FIBA.com: As the highest ranked country in this OQT, what kind of pressure do France have to win in the Final?
Heurtel: Well, we don’t really feel any pressure. We expect it’ll be a tough game, we have prepared for that and we will just try and play our usual game. I don’t think we are really overwhelmed by any pressure or anything like that.

FIBA.com: What is the biggest challenge you see against the Canadians?
Heurtel: We certainly need to stop their guards, especially Cory Joseph and Tyler Ennis. We know that Tristan Thompson is really good, especially in offensive rebounding. Canada are a very tough and physical team. We have to play strong, so we have a chance to stop them.

FIBA.com: How important is it for France to qualify to the Rio Olympics?
Heurtel: In the last Olympics in London, we also played, but we are also aware that this is the biggest sports event in the world. It’s also the last time the national team will have Tony Parker and maybe Boris Diaw, too, so we will try to reach the Olympics for them and, of course, for our countrymen as well.