22 - 30
September 2018
17 Marine M.m. Johannès (FRA)
to read

Can Johannes and the new French generation deliver?

TENERIFE (FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018) - After more than six decades of hurt at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup, can a new generation of French stars get their country back onto the podium?

Front and central to that task is Marine Johannes. She needs little introduction having announced her arrival on the global stage at the Rio Olympics two years ago - prior to impressing again by firing France into the FIBA Women's EuroBasket Final in Prague last year.

Johannes wasted no time in showing her skills on what is her debut at the Women's World Cup as she dropped 19 points in a scorching 58-89 success for France in their opener against Korea on Saturday.

 Dynamic, entertaining and full of promise, Johannes is the heartbeat of a new-look French team aiming to end one of the most unexpected barren runs in the sport. You have to press the rewind button all the way back to the inaugural edition in 1953 for when France collected what remains their only medal to date - a bronze - in the competition.

But, with Johannes leading the way, confidence is growing that a door of opportunity could be open.

What has probably gone under the radar more than it should have, is that France are playing their first major event in some time without their legendary playmaker, Celine Dumerc. When it comes down to the tournament stretch, the question of how much they might miss their former leader will be answered.

Whatever happens, France are handing the baton to new talent and while everyone can't necessarily have the impact of Johannes, the decision to bring the likes of 20-year-old Alix Duchet into the mix is making people sit up and take notice.

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 Of course, France still need their experience to lean on and they have plenty of that in the shape of Sandrine Gruda and her froncourt partner, Endy Miyem.

Once upon a time, it was Miyem nervously entering the locker room as a young French player looking to make an impression at a major tournament.

Fast-forward almost a decade and Miyem finds herself cast in the role of veteran and seeing aspiring stars like Duchet arriving on the scene is making the memories come flooding back - along with a sense of understanding of how tough it can be.

"When I was a young player and coming into the locker room I never used to try and be seen too much, or hide in the corner. I always tried to be somewhere in the middle," smiled Miyem.

"It can be difficult and I always wanted people to know I was there and to make a good impression, but it is really about what you do on the court of course."


The win against Korea was not without some levels of stress, since the Asian side took a healthy early advantage. But, France eventually came alive and were able to give nice minutes to some of their more inexperienced faces - a fact not lost on Miyem.

"Everyone was stressed at the beginning and we started slow which is always the case for the first game of a tournament," she pointed out. "I think at the end it was much better and we could impose our game on Korea.

"Our strength this year is that we have a full roster of experienced and young players and we can put anyone on the court and they can contribute. When the score was enough at the end it was important to give more minutes to the younger players."

So, while the jury is still out on whether France have truly got what it takes to challenge for honors, the direction of travel appears positive and maybe the sky is the limit for this  nice fusion of veteran know-how and emerging talent.

For now though, any podium step for France would be both a relief, and major step forward.