By David Hein
France did not really celebrate after blowing past Italy in the semi-finals of the U20 European Championship to set up another showdown with hosts Greece in the final. And French guard Edwin Jackson had a simple reason for that.
"We came here for first place, not second place. It's good that we're in the final, but we're not satisfied. We want more. We're not gonna celebrate because we're in the final," said Jackson, France's leading scorer with 14 points per game.
"We said before we came here that we want to win the championship and that we're gonna celebrate if we win, not if we make the final. I'm not gonna say it's nothing to be in the final. But we haven't reached our goal yet."
France advanced to the final against Greece as the competition's leading-scoring team with 79.5 points as well as third-best in points allowed at 67.4 points a contest.
Jean-Aymi Toupane's Les Bleus also have the second-best opponent field goal percentage at 38 percent.
And Jackson also has an easy explanation for France's stellar defense - he and his teammates are good friends.
"We have really great chemistry. We stay together. And we try to enjoy all this," said the 19-year-old native of Pau.
"You forget sometimes that it's a game when you're on the court and having pleasure with your friends. Even if there are important games and important competition you have to remember to have pleasure because if not then the results wont come."
It's that pleasure of being with his teammates that will make Sunday's final in Rhodes a bit emotional for Jackson and the other players who will be completing their careers in the French junior national team system.
"It's amazing. I've been doing this since I was 15 years old having fun on the court. It's gonna be my last game in the youth French system," said the shooting guard.
Jackson's youth career will finish with his second medal - and perhaps his second gold.
Last summer, Jackson and France finished seventh at the U20 level and in 2007 the French took sixth place at the U18 level.
The summer before that, Jackson averaged 4.0 points and 1.9 rebounds in 10 minutes as France claimed gold at the U18 European Championship. That team included current NBA players Nicolas Batum and Alexis Ajinca as well as current U20 teammate Antoine Diot.
"It was an amazing team with great players. But even though they are great players and are in the NBA we still talk almost every week. It was a really special group. And I think we will stay friends and stay in touch throughout our lives because it was really special to do that," Jackson said.
"I think we made it to that European Championship because we were great friends. Maybe we had a lot of talent. But the fact that we were really close helped us a lot."
Jackson is looking forward to finally being able to let loose and celebrate.
"(Having a gold medal around my neck) will be really something special. It would be amazing. It's all coming down to today and I hope we are going to celebrate."