|Léo Westermann conquered the bronze medal with France in the 2011 U20 European Championship |
Out of the colours on the French ‘Tricolore' flag, blue is probably the one that better expresses Leo Westermann.
The talented all-around guard, a blue-collar worker on the floor who will do anything for his team, reserves the most special place in his heart for ‘Les Bleus'.
Westermann is very aware of his European identity but shies away from stardom so much that you can picture him more comfortable as part of the blue background of the European flag rather than as one of its golden stars.
He's exploded this season in the French Pro A league with Lyon-Villeurbanne, averaging 8.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
The French international, who will be 20 in July, gives credit for his progress to almost everyone at ASVEL but himself.
"I think that the entire club helps me, my teammates have a lot of confidence in me, my coach (Pierre Vincent) gives me playing time and I like to work, so my game has improved a lot this year," he tells FIBAEurope.com
"It's a combination of many things and I am very lucky to have this chance."
ASVEL have six players born after 1990 on their roster, but they are not the only club in France nowadays who took notice of up-and-coming players and made a conscious decision to give them a chance to show their worth.
In a way, they were forced to do so by the quality of these youngsters, Westermann suggests.
"All teams trust young players more, we have (in France) good players and a lot of talent so it's normal that teams can show confidence in these players.
"Evan Fournier (of Poitiers), Andrew Albicy (of league leaders Gravelines-Dunkerque), Joffrey Lauvergne (of EuroChallenge Final Four oufit Elan Chalon) and others, they are all getting minutes on the floor and try to show everybody that we can play."
|France can have a bright future with existing senior national team players like Nicolas Batum and other young players coming up |
LES BLEUS U20 AND BEYOND
Fournier was one of Westermann's teammates on the U20 France team that competed in last year's European Championship, in Bilbao.
The ASVEL guard cannot wait to re-join him and the others this summer, with one very clear goal in mind.
"This summer we want the gold medal, if we go to the European Championship it is to win it," Westermann declares.
"My teammates are also my friends so I like to talk with them often. I also called the coach recently and we all want the same thing.
"We will do a good preparation, we have six players that played last year, I hope Evan Fournier will be able to play too.
"I want to be a part of this team, to try to win European Championship, so I am very excited about this summer."
Westermann watched closely and cheered on as France reached the EuroBasket final in Lithuania.
Does he envisage his generation taking over and repeating the same success, or even going one step further?
"We hope so; we have an incredible generation right now with Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and the others.
"Nicolas Batum is younger and we have a good generation coming up (to join him), but we have to improve because other nations have good players and are getting better too, so we hope we can work for this.
"As every basketball player, I want to win something with my national team, the EuroBasket, the World Cup or the Olympics.
"It's like a dream for me."
DARIO SARIC AND BASKETBALL ETHOS
|'I don't think there is anyone in the world, born in 1994, that is better than Dario Saric right now,' Westermann says of the Croatian international|
Westermann spoke to FIBAEurope.com in the wake of his return from the USA, where he played in the Nike Hoop Summit game at the weekend.
The World Select Team, which featured six European players on its roster, defeated the American team, 84-75.
He was very happy that he followed in the footsteps of Tony Parker, who had played in this game 12 years ago, but most of all about the result.
"I wanted to show both my game and my personal quality and also I wanted us to show that Europeans can also play basketball, to prove that we can compete and we can beat the USA team, and we did," he admits.
"I don't think there is anyone, in the US or anywhere in the world, born in 1994, that can say that he is better than Dario Saric right now," Westermann says of the Croatian international who was one of his teammates on the World Team.
Few players would openly praise another like this, but Leo's father was also a professional basketball player and he has instilled in his son a set of important values about the game and his attitude.
"My family is very important to me, I know where I come from and I always try to keep my feet on the ground," he reluctantly says about himself.
"I want to improve so I can be the best player I can be, I know that if I get better I can help my team more, that's why I work every day to improve my game, for my team."