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The French Model

13 July 2009
At first glance, anyone who sees France's U20 Women's team for the first time might think they were watching Sandrine Gruda, Celine Dumerc and the rest of the French senior squad that took home the gold this June in 2009 EuroBasket Women.

There is a good reason- the resemblance is uncanny between France's top two national teams.

Both feature a strong commitment to defense, a tough playmaker at point, and, most obviously, three dominant post players.

9. Isis Arrondo (France)
Isis Arrondo is ispired by the senior squad's performances of Celine Dumerc

While the seniors boast the triple towers of Gruda, Emmeline Ndongue and Isabelle Yacoubou-Dehoi, their younger compatriots, not to be outdone, count on Marielle Amant, Ana Cata-Chitiga and Doriane Tahane to patrol the paint.

U20 head coach Alain Jardel agrees that the two squads' front lines are almost perfect mirror images.

"I think we have similar players because scouting is the main thing in France to get tall girls. It is normal to find these girls in France. For us it is a privilege," said Jardel, who coached the senior team to the European Championship in 2001.

The only difference between the two teams is that the U20 actually has better balance between its inside and outside scorers.

While the senior team relied on its three power players to consistently get points, the U20 is being led from both inside and out with Amant and shooting guard Melanie Plust both averaging 11.3 points a game.

Jardel agrees that he deploys better outside threats.

"Yes, we have two very good shooters [Plust and Aline Fischback]," said Jardel.

"And Isis Arrondo is a good organizer."

The senior squad and their recent success is serving as inspiration for young players like Arrondo and Tahane.

Both draw on their experience having played against their older counterparts who share their positions.

For Arrondo, no other point guard stands up to Celine Dumerc, as she knows from first-hand experience.

"I met her several times, for me she is the best point guard in France and in Europe."

Was it tough to play against Dumerc?

"Yes," she said, laughing, "it was really hard."

Tahane had a similar experience playing against the senior team's inside trio.

"It was hard, but it helped me improve."

Arrondo said that now the U20s would like to "do the same" as the seniors and bring the gold back to France.

"We have similar goals," Jardel said, adding, "but Spain, Latvia and Russia are very good teams.

"For us the best thing is to find ourselves in the Quarter-Finals against the third- or forth-place team of the other group, and to do this we have to win two games in this round and then maybe after that, maybe we can think [about the medals], but now it is about going step by step, game by game."

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