Tony Parker and Nicholas Batum both headline the 12-man roster that France will have when they arrive in Ljubljana next month for Eurobasket.
Head coach Vincent Collet has surprised many however by leaving out Leo Westermann, Evan Fournier and Kim Tille, a decision that was made by Collet on Saturday night, before the team’s first defeat of the pre-Eurobasket warm-ups to Greece.
Many expected Fournier to make his senior debut this summer in Slovenia after impressing at under-20 level. He was also a major standout at last year’s Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy – where they showcase young European prospects under the watchful eye of NBA scouts.
“Evan [Fournier] had little time to show us what he could do, and although in the last few games he improved and started to play more freely, it was still not enough to make us change our mind about what we had seen before,” Collet explained.
Collet though revealed that his most difficult decision was to let go of Westermann, another player that was expected to make the cut. Laboral Kutxa’s Thomas Heurtel has been chosen instead.
Indecision reigned until the end on the final spot,” admitted Collet. “Thomas was pretty good against Germany* in Mannheim and against Croatia** on Saturday, but still a bit flat defensively.
“Until that point Leo Westermann had done what was expected of him.
“[But] we are building the French team here, we are not selecting the best eight sprinters to run the 100m final, we are trying to make the strongest team possible, and cohesion is important.
“They are different players: Thomas is more creative while Leo has an advantage as an organiser.
“Leo Westermann displayed a lot of maturity in his game, but I did not feel he pulled his weight in a more difficult context.”
Along with Greece, France are among the favourites for the gold medal at this year’s event after finishing runners-up to Spain in Lithuania, two years ago.
They will be in Group A with Germany, Israel, Great Britain, Ukraine and Belgium.
(Pre-Eurobasket game results, highlighted)
* France 74-66 Germany
**France 92-60 Croatia