Victor Wembanyama, Rudy Gobert and a squad of leaders called to prepare for the Paris Olympics with the French basketball team

The suspense hardly lasted

Victor Wembanyama, Rudy Gobert and a squad of leaders called to prepare for the Paris Olympics with the French basketball team

The suspense hardly lasted. International basketball phenomenon Victor Wembanyama will compete in his first international competition in the blue jersey during the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. The San Antonio Spurs player, recently crowned “rookie” of the year, is part of the preselection of 19 players announced on Thursday, May 16, by the French coach, Vincent Collet, to compete in preparation for the Paris Olympics. Like his counterpart on the French women's team, Jean-Aimé Toupane, the French technician revealed, Thursday in Paris, the outlines of the group called to shine during these home Games.

“It’s a larger list than expected, we had talked about 16 or 17 initially but the uncertainty of the choices widened this list,” explained Vincent Collet at a press conference. If the leader Thomas Heurtel, ineligible since he played in Russia, has indeed put himself "out of the Games", the French coach has chosen to carry out a large review of the workforce on the back positions, where " we had a lot of uncertainty,” Collet admitted. Five players (Andrew Albicy, Théo Maledon, Frank Ntilikina, Matthew Strazel and Killian Hayes) will compete for the position of playmaker, responsible for organizing the attack, and instilling the defensive spirit demanded by Vincent Collet.

Conversely, the one who has led the Blues since 2009 has already made a decision regarding the domestic sector – the “big guys”. With the presence of the “two figureheads” Victor Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert – respectively best “rookie” (beginner) and best defender of the season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) – places were expensive, and the French staff had to facing “the problems of the rich”, recognized Vincent Collet, choosing for example to do without the pivot of Olympiakos Piraeus, Moustapha Fall, for lack of minutes to distribute.

No last Olympic dance for Sandrine Gruda

Because not all those called up will be elected: only twelve players will be selected to compete in the Olympics (from July 26 to August 11), first in Lille then in Paris. And, before that, the two coaches will give themselves the means to refine their group to achieve the high objectives they have set for themselves – a podium, at least, for both teams. “The objectives are very clear, we have enormous pressure: we have to win medals,” recalled the president of the French Basketball Federation (FFBB), Jean-Pierre Siutat.

A little over two months before the start of the Olympic Games, the Federation has chosen to unveil the lists of its two teams, both of whom returned as medalists – silver for the men and bronze for the women – from the Olympic Games. Tokyo at the same time. “That’s it, we’re there,” smiled the president, assuring that the FFBB “has put in a lot of resources” to ensure that Bleues et Bleus shine at home.

A big party which will not include Sandrine Gruda, 36 years old and top scorer in the history of the French women's team. If he preselected 18 players to prepare for the deadline, Jean-Aimé Toupane chose to do without the veteran tricolor, “an exceptional player who has always worn the French team jersey with a lot of commitment”, and recognized “not an easy decision” to make, but based on sporting performance.

Unlike their male counterparts, forced by the rules of the NBA – the major North American basketball league – to begin their preparation only twenty-eight days before the start of the competition (notably for insurance matters) , the Bleues will begin theirs on June 6, and will carry out “four blocks of preparation” to “develop a team worthy of this event,” argued Jean-Aimé Toupane. The French technician notably retained the star Marine Johannès, absent from Euro 2023, as well as the young leader Marine Fauthoux, launched into a time trial since her operation in February for a herniated disc. “She is in good shape, and she will be ready for the start of preparation,” assured the French coach.

With Wembanyama, “we are far from having seen everything”

Like him, Vincent Collet will have to choose twelve players to compete in the Olympic competition, and the coach expects fierce competition for the “unique meeting” that is the Games at home, and “the toughest tournament of the 'history ". And he calls for a hungry team, unlike the one that failed in the first round of the 2023 World Cup: “After this disappointment, reconstruction involves putting in place an intractable defense,” insisted the coach.

Supported by the Gobert and Wembanyama control towers, the Blues have the means to once again become a stronghold in defense. And the new French phenomenon will have to blend into the French collective, for its first international competition. “He has never-before-seen potential and which we are certainly not about to see again,” said the man who coached Wembanyama at the Metropolitans 92 during the 2022-2023 season. And we are far from having seen everything. »

To best prepare for the Olympic deadline, the two French teams will be entitled to preparation matches against formidable opponents – notably Germany, Serbia and Canada for the Blues, i.e. the podium of the last World Cup . “We have to work to create chemistry, because there are a lot of uncertainties, but it’s a great team. There’s plenty of gear, as they say, concluded Vincent Collet. And if we manage to implement what we want, we can be very successful. »