|Center Mouhammadou Jaiteh is going to be a part of the 'old guard' of the France team at this year's U18 European Championship |
By David Hein
Last summer, Mouhammadou Jaiteh was by far the youngest player on France's team at the U18 European Championship Men.
This summer the talented French center is ready to take over a leadership role at the U18 Championship.
"I have to be an example for the new players. But I feel really good that I can be a leader," said Jaiteh who, despite being a few months shy of his 17th birthday last summer, led the U18 French team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.
Jaiteh, who doesn't actually turn 18 until late November, will play a key role in France's chances at the 2012 tournament in Lithuania and Latvia, where Les Bleus have been drawn into Group C with Turkey, Bulgaria and Latvia.
"We have a lot of work before then, but if we work enough beforehand then we will be okay to advance," Jaiteh told FIBAEurope.com.
Jaiteh led the French team in scoring, rebounds and blocks while dishing out 1.8 assists as well at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament in April.
He was also the top rebounder in the tournament and was second-best in efficiency rating.
But it was not enough to stop France from finishing in eighth place.
"The tournament was good preparation to see the difference at the moment between us and other national teams," the French center said.
"I think we will be ready for the European Championship.
|Nicolas Batum in the semi-final against Spain in 2006, when he led Les Bleus to the U18 title. Jaiteh is ready to follow in his footsteps this summer|
"But at this high level of basketball, we saw that everything is important, every single ball. The small things can make you lose games."
When asked what France's expectations are at the U18 championship in the Baltics this summer, Jaiteh answered short and direct: "First place."
France's last U18 gold came in 2006 with the likes of Nicolas Batum, Alexis Ajinca, Antoine Diot, Adrien Moerman and Edwin Jackson on the team.
Batum in 2006 also lifted the Albert Schweitzer Tournament trophy - a tournament which has featured other great French stars such as Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Ronny Turiaf, Johan Petro and Jerome Moiso.
"It's an honour to play at the same tournament like those guys. I hope that I am good enough to be mentioned with those other names," said the modest big man.
Jaiteh has a strong frame which lends to a good low post game.
"Close to the basket I am a good player and I can help the team," said the Pantin native.
But he wants to continue working on his outside shot.
The big man is currently in his last season at the French INSEP program and is considering his future options.
"At this time I don't know, but I think I can maybe go into the second division in France of maybe the first division," added Jaiteh.
"Another option is college in the United States. I don't know at this time. I am open for everything."
Especially for becoming a leader.