|25 July 2013|
|Boris Diaw believes that his team can go all the way in Slovenia |
France have kicked off their preparations for EuroBasket 2013 in Paris with their optimism intact, despite missing key players in the frontcourt.
Big stars Tony Parker and Boris Diaw were all smiles on the first day of training camp and the latter, who is also the captain of the French national team, took it upon himself to set the tone of the campaign.
"We have all the ingredients as a team to go for gold in Slovenia," a confident Diaw told the media, although he hastened to add that he is fully aware of the big potential of the other contenders at the EuroBasket.
All eyes however were on the man of the last minute, center Johan Petro, who was invited to join the team only last week, after Ronny Turiaf became the latest big man to pull out.
"The gold medal," Petro replied categorically when asked what his aim is in Slovenia.
"Even if we have, how many now, 18 absences?" he added jokingly.
"On paper, we are still pretty good and it will be up to us to work and grow as a team."
Petro has had a turbulent past with the national team, as he played at the 2006 World Championship in Japan but pulled on again the blue jersey three years later, in qualification for EuroBasket 2009, only to be cut from the squad that travelled to Poland for the Final Round.
After completing this NBA season with the Atlanta Hawks, he saw one big man after the other dropping out of the squad that will be on the plane to Slovenia in September, and waited patiently.
"I told my agent 'Listen, if you ever get a call from the French team, you say I'm going'," a smiling Petro revealed.
"When I got the call, I said ok, I was super motivated.
"I could not pass on this opportunity; I have understood that it is an honour to be in the French team.
"I left with great disappointment the last time, but I've put it behind me and start again from scratch.
"Have I evolved as a player? That will be for others to judge.
"Personally, I know that I have worked on everything that was said I had neglected before."
The 27-year-old Petro averaged 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in 37 games with the Hawks this NBA season.
France are in First Round Group A at the EuroBasket and will do battle with Germany, Israel, Great Britain, Belgium and Ukraine.