France Five Spot A Riddle Until June

11 April 2013

EUROBASKET 2013

6. Kévin Seraphin (France)
Kévin Seraphin in his own words is having his first proper NBA season

France head coach Vincent Collet has no vested interest in the NBA, but he will be following developments as closely as the American league's most devoted fan until the end of the season.

Depending on events on the other side of the Atlantic in the next couple of months, the EuroBasket 2011 silver medallists could have their two first options at the center position, Joakim Noah and Kevin Sheraphin, arriving in Slovenia for this summer's showcase event in the best form of their life, or not at all.

Collet is expected to announce his preliminary squad for EuroBasket 2013 by June, but it is possible he will still not have a clear idea on the availability of his frontcourt players at that point.

On Wednesday, Seraphin said in an interview with sport24.com that he is still sitting on the fence with regards to his participation at the showcase September event with Les Bleus.

The Washington Wizards center, who met with Collet during the latter's trip to the USA last week, revealed that he was, "not sure whether to go and play for France" in the summer.

"It's complicated this year, this summer I really want to work on some points individually," Seraphin explained.

"If you look closely, this is in reality my first NBA season.

"Last year, there was the lockout, the year before I did not really play, so this is really the first time I got a role in the team and there are expectations."

Seraphin has featured in 75 games this season with the Wizards, averaging nine points and 4.3 rebounds-per-contest.

"I'm not saying that I don't want to progress in the national team, but that I need to work and my team also would like me to stay here [in the USA] this summer," he added.

"So for now I'm not sure, I am waiting."

The 23-year-old also admitted however that Collet made a strong case in favour of playing in a tournament like the EuroBasket and that the coach will include him in the French preliminary squad, in the hope that he will decide to join the team in preparations.

"He told me that it would be a good thing to play [at the EuroBasket], that I need time to play, because I started playing basketball at a late age, so I need to play a lot to catch up," Seraphin said.

Noah, who was the team's starting center at EuroBasket 2011 but missed out on the London Olympics, has been having a fantastic NBA season, averaging 12.2 points, a team-high 11.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists, as the best passer among all big men in the league.

4. Joakim Noah (France)
Joakim Noah has been battling an ongoing foot injury in Chicago

The Chicago Bulls star though is suffering plantar fasciitis pain in his right foot and has only featured in one of their last ten games.

Media reports in the USA suggest the 28-year-old big man will return for the NBA play-offs (Chicago has already secured a top-eight finish in the Eastern Conference) and he's also expressed to Collet his willingness to play for France.

However, it looks probable that Noah will have to deal with this lingering health issue in the off-season, while according to reports in France the Bulls are reluctant to release him for international duty in the summer.

For Les Bleus, it is of more critical importance than ever that a deep run in the NBA play-offs does not take a toll on Ronny Turiaf.

The Los Angeles Clippers center, who's been an influential player for France both on and off the court in recent tournaments, has avoided the major injury woes of years past, but is going through his most discreet season since his rookie year in the NBA, in 2005/06.

Ali Traore, who has been a staple in the French frontcourt in recent years, has had a turbulent season and he is only now beginning to recuperate his game rhythm.

The 28-year-old parted ways with Lokomotiv Kuban in September, had a very brief spell at Red Star Belgrade in the winter and only started playing regularly last month, when he joined German club Alba Berlin.

One option for Collet, in his effort to make up the numbers in the paint, could be to recall to the national team Ian Mahinmi, for the first time since Eurobaskest 2009.

Mahimni joined the Indiana Pacers in the summer and his playing time, along with his stat lines, has decreased compared to his last season at the Dallas Mavericks, the best in his five-year long NBA career.

Should Collet opt to look closer to home then Ludovic Vaty deserves the attention of the French coach. The BCM Gravelines center can take significant credit for getting his team to the impending EuroChallenge Final Four with11.9 points and 5.2 rebounds an outing in Europe, and a solid 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds a night in the French Pro A League.

Also performing with credit on the home front is Alexis Ajinca, knocking down 16 points and picking up 6.3 boards a game for Strasbourg.

Another option could probably be to place his trust into one - or more - of three exciting young talents, albeit perhaps a bit ahead of schedule.

15. Rudy Gobert  (France)
Rudy Gobert has already been a member of Collet's wider training squad in the past

Rudy Gobert, who will turn 21 in June, has almost doubled his figures in the French Pro A League with Cholet this season, averaging 8.3 points and 5.2 rebounds-per-contest in the 23 games he has played so far with the historic French club.

The 2.13m center was a starter in the French side that conquered silver at last summer's U20 European Championship, contributing 7.6 points and seven rebounds on average.

A player who started at center for France at another youth European Championship in 2012, but at U18 level, is Mouhammadou Jaiteh.

The 18-year-old led Les Bleus with a monstrous 16.6-point, 11.6-rebound tournament double-double, and has kept on posting similar numbers during the club season.

The 2.08m tall Jaiteh is a serious contender in the race for season MVP honours in the Pro B (second division), as he leads fourth-placed Boulogne-sur-Mer in scoring (16.5 ppg) and rebounds (10 rpg).

The 22-year-old Joffrey Lauvergne is the third youngster that could be in the picture.

Lauvergne parted ways with French champions and EuroChallenge 2012 finalists Elan Chalon in December to join Partizan Belgrade.

In the 11 games he played in the ABA Adriatic league with the Serbian legendary club until the end of the Regular Season, he's averaged 4.5 points and 3.1 rebounds.

 


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