France’s De Colo wants to earn Olympic spot for outgoing Tony Parker
MANILA, Philippines – The FIBA Olympic Qualifiers in Manila are France’s last chance to make it to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
There is also an air of finality as some long-time mainstays of the French national team — Tony Parker and forwards Mickael Gelabale and Florent Pietrus – have called it their last in a national team shirt.
While France head coach Vincent Collet has annointed 6-foot-5 siwngman Nando De Colo as “France’s future” after being named the Final Four Most Valuable Player of the recently concluded Euroleague Finals where his squad, CSKA Moscow, emerged triumphant.
Despite France’s missing NBA mainstays Rudy Gobert, Ian Mahinmi, Evan Fournier, and Alexis Ajinca, Les Bleus still have enough firepower to bring to bear in Manila. De Colo, is one of them.
The Sainte-Catherine-les-Arras born lad isn’t at all comfortable with the tag placed on him. “I don’t think about the future,” he said. “I just have to be ready for the tournament.”
(READ: Tony Parker Sr a proud dad as son's int'l career winds down)
In the same vein, the swingman who used to be Tony Parker’s teammate with the San Antonio Spurs from 2012-14, said that as a teammate, he would love for Parker, Gelabale, and Pietrus to end their tour of duty with an Olympic berth.
“It would be nice to win not only for France and ourselves but also for our teammates," says De Colo.
De Colo admitted that it was time for France to forget the disappointment of EuroBasket 2015 where Les Bleus lost in the semi-finals, 80-75, to eventual champion, Spain. "I think it was a big disappointment last summer. But now we need to be focused on this tournament and maybe forget about the past. Just be focused on our team. The tournament will not be easy so we have to be ready. We have to respect everyone.”
France is the fifth ranked country by FIBA in world basketball and De Colo likewise expressed apprehension at the tag. “It can be good and it can be bad,” he said. “It’s good that French basketball is getting better. It’s also bad because if we believe the hype, that will be our downfall.
(READ: France wary of Gilas fans' impact on Manila OQT showdown)
“The Philippines will play fast and with a lot of energy. So we have to be focused and play defense. If we let them play their game, we know their fans will support them and their confidence will grow.”
Unlike Gelabale who outright said he thinks France will defeat the Philippines, De Colo expressed caution.
"We can never know what will happen on the court. We can have a bad game; some others can get hot. We need to know better who we are playing against. We know they (the Philippines) are fast and quick. They like to use the 3-pointer as a weapon and they attack the basket. We just have to be prepared." – Rappler.com