France: Rigaudeau Determined To Play His Part

11 August 2005

France international Antoine Rigaudeau is determined to bring his experience and leadership to Les Bleus - four and a half years after his last appearance with his national side.

The 33-year-old point guard is currently in Alpe d'Huez with coach Claude Bergeaud and the rest of the squad as they prepare for EuroBasket, that will take place in Serbia & Montenegro from September 16-25.

Rigaudeau won a silver medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, before retiring from international action a year later with 110 caps.

He made his decision to come out of retirement for Les Bleus last year prior to their Euro 2005 qualifying campaign but was forced out with an Achilles problem which also hampered his season with Valencia.

However, he has regained full fitness and intends to enjoy every moment with the national team.

Antoine Rigaudeau (FRA) at Eurobasket 1999
Antoine Rigaudeau
"I am very happy to be able to experience high level basketball again," he declared.

"Even, though, I experienced the Euroleague with Valencia (in 2003-2004) I couldn't make the most of it because of my injury.

"Being back in this atmosphere boosts my motivation, and that's one of the main reasons that made me come want to come back.

"I wanted to get to know the new generation of players and involve myself a 100% physically and mentally for Euro 2005."

The former Virtus Bologna player, however, insists that his four-year break from international duty did him good, even if he started feeling the desire to come back after the failure at Euro 2003.

"I still believe it was a good choice," he added in L'Equipe.

"At the time I was not capable of committing myself to the national team. A lot of things happened and I needed to take a step back.

"But over the past two years I have missed playing high-level competition, training, success and the demand for high level performances.

"The Swedish Euro disappointed everyone, the one before that also. Both competitions helped to make my mind up to come back and help bring something to that group

"During Euro 2003 I really wanted to throw my television out of the window. After it finished my family knew I would come back with France."

Rigaudeau, who should be paired with San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker in Serbia & Montenegro, hopes to play a decisive role in France's performance.

"I want to bring my experience from European basketball, my knowledge of the game, my mental strength, my enthusiasm for work and a lot of little other things," he added.

"I don't consider myself as a leader but I want to be seen as someone who has leadership ability.

"I don't want to be following the others, that would mean I am not ready to commit myself and no one should have that mentality, when you play for France.

"But I also think that all 12 players at the Euro will have that sort of leadership ability."

Nevertheless, Rigaudeau is expecting to be given the captainship.

"I don't think I will refuse it, it's important because this is a link between the technical staff and the team," he explained.

"But even if I am not the captain, it will not prevent me from doing or saying anything that I feel would be good for the group.

"The fact I could not be (captain) will not give me less responsibilities."

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