By David HeinDisappointment has surely already set in deep for France, who once again failed to capitalize on loads of talent in losing to Spain in the EuroBasket 2009 Quarter-Finals.
But France still can qualify for the 2010 World Championship and Poland 2009 saw the glimpses of France's two golden generations mixing together for the first time, giving Les Bleus fans plenty of hope to finally celebrate the nation's first-ever men's senior side European Championship.
Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf captured the gold medal together at the U18 European Championship in 2000. And Nicolas Batum and Antoine Diot were part of a historic French generation which won U18 Euro gold in 2006 and U19 worlds bronze in 2007.
Batum and Diot are just two high level youngsters who have crashed down the door to the French senior side. And their NBA elders have welcomed the young corps with open arms.
|Antoine Diot is another French youngster with plenty of potential.|
"I love the new guys. It's very refreshing. They are very motivated. I'm happy to play with them," said Parker.
"They had high expectations because we set the bar very high. They used that as motivation and now they are playing with us and playing with great energy for us. I think it's a great mix between both generations and hopefully we can get some great results with both generations."
"I think they're coming along great. They definitely are very good. They are playing really well at a young age and are showing signs that they are already mature and they will help us a lot," said Diaw.
Turiaf meanwhile added: "I love those guys. I tell them all the time that I love them. They bring so much joy and so much enthusiasm. Some times we need that."
Batum and Diot built up nearly legendary status on their way through the junior ranks to rising to the senior side.
After helping France win the U16 European gold in 2004, the small forward Batum then captured MVP honors in leading Les Bleus to U18 gold in 2006. A year later Batum was one of the leaders on the team that grabbed bronze at the 2007 U19 World Championship.
"I'm just going to follow these guys. They are good players who are used to playing in big tournaments," said Batum of the NBA trio.
"We have had a lot of success so we are used to playing at a high level already. That helps. And now we just want to keep winning."
But Batum was far from the only emerging star from the successful France generation from 1986 to 1989.
Also coming from Batum's 1988 age group was 7-foot center Alexis Ajinca, who is not in Poland but like Batum drafted by the NBA in the spring of 2008 and played as a rookie last season with the Charlotte Bobcats.
Ajinca was a part of all the same successful teams with Batum. Also on the 2006 U18 Euro gold medal team and 2007 U19 worlds bronze-winning side were 1989 generation members Edwin Jackson and Diot as well as Adrien Moerman (1988).
Jackson and Moerman both were cut from Vincent Collet's training camp for Poland though Jackson helped France to the silver medal at this summer's U20 European Championship.
Diot ended up a member of the 2009 U20 All-Tournament team and now he is making his debut with the senior side after his own strong youth career.
"I am very happy and proud to be here and play with Tony Parker and Boris Diaw. I really learn a lot from them. And I am playing, so it's very good for me," said Diot, who defends Parker in practice and listens to his advice including tips on running the pick-and-roll.
Diot's trophy case includes 2005 U16 Euro silver (as MVP), 2006 U18 Euro gold, 2007 U19 Worlds bronze and 2009 U20 Euro silver.
"We learn from them and they learn from us. So that's good. We won a lot of things in the youth hopefully we can win together," added Diot.
All told, six players are making their senior national team debut for Collet in Poland - the others being Ian Mahinmi (1986), Nando De Colo (1987), Alain Koffi (1983) and Ali Traore (1985).
"It's all part of a learning process. We started young and playing with the youth teams and now we are with the big team. That's what we all always dreamed about - playing for the national team," said Mahinmi, who played six games with the NBA San Antonio Spurs two seasons ago before returning to Europe last season.
"We are all growing but it's great to be growing together too. And it's nice to be around the older guys too, like Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf. It's great to be around them every day and practice with them. I really enjoy it."
French fans hope the mix of two golden generations can bring plenty more success in the future.