(Photo: FIBA.com ) In mid-December 2017 took place during three days in Bourges (France), at Le Prado, home of EuroLeagueWomen side Tango Bourges Basket, the 4th edition of the annual U15-U16 “Euro Tournoi des Demoiselles” -an event that is used by the French Federation (FFBB) as a try-out camp for its U15 prospects in order to select the players who will join the “Centre Fédéral” (or “CFBB”) the following year for the 3 years long (U15-U18) elite program. It was the 2nd phase out of 3 of the selection process. The tournament involved 4 teams, 2 French ones (24 players divided geographically between France South and France North), Poland U15 NT and the Netherlands U16 NT.
Les 4 équipes de l'Euro Tournoi des Demoiselles 2017
The level gap (physical, technical and tactical) between the French teams and the other two invited nations turned this tournament into a strong showcase for FFBB’s development system. It was always a matter of which one of the two French selections would win the competition. Ironically the outcome of the tournament got decided in the first 5 minutes of the first game which saw France North explode to an early 18-0 lead over France South (behind 12pts in 15min from MVP-to-be Célia Rivière), a margin they would never catch up. They would even trail by an alarming 30pts at halftime (18-48). The frontcourt power of France North in the shape of Oumou Diarisso (C, 6’2, 2003, 23,7mpg-8,7ppg-8rpg-2apg-2,7topg-1spg-40%FG2-60%FT) and Célia Rivière (PF, 6’1, 2003, 26mpg-9,7ppg-9,3rpg-1,7topg-46,4%FG2-60%FT) was too hard to handle for France South. A strong last quarter with a final 11-0 run helped the latter cut the deficit down to 22pts at the final buzzer (54-76) with the help of a trio of Sara Roumy (G, 5’11, 2003, 25,7mpg-11,3ppg-2,3rpg-2topg-2spg-50%FG2-27,3%FG3-50%FT), Ibtissem Salayah (PG, 5’4, 2003, 20,7mpg-7ppg-4,7rpg-2apg-4,3topg-4,7spg-40%FG2-20%FG3-60%FT) and Ilona Hattab (G/SG, 5’11, 2003, 23,7mpg-11,3ppg-7rpg-3,3topg-2,7spg-57,9%FG2-70,6%FT). The other question mark was which of the two between Poland and the Netherlands would finish third. A year difference and a clear size advantage gave the Dutch players the physical edge over the Poles. But a strong second half inspired by an intense and strict defense by Poland left the Dutch without a basket for 7 long minutes at the beginning of the third quarter, while their opponents scored 14pts in the meantime. The Polish side always stayed in the game and fought hard. It payed off. They again limited the Dutch side to just 3 points in the final 5 minutes of the game, turning a 16pts deficit at half time (21-37) into a more decent-looking 7pts defeat in the end (51-58). Holland’s size (5 players between 6’1 and 6’3 compared to Poland’s lone tallest at 6’1) and deeper bench did the overall damage (55 rebounds to 41, 15 second-chance points to 8 and 30 bench points to 23).
The last 4 games in the next two days of action saw France’s teams outpower clearly their foreign opponents by big margins: +40pts for FRA South against NED (70-30), +47pts for FRA North against POL (88-41), again +46pts for FRA North against POL (82-36) and finally +14pts for FRA North against NED (57-43) in the last game of the tournament, mostly due to a lack of concentration from the French side in the final minutes that allowed the Dutch to come back from a 22pts deficit to “only” 14 pts thanks to a late 0-8 run. Wheter FRA North or FRA South, the 2003 generation is really talented. Not on the same positions, but similar in quality to the 2001 one.
With just over a week until Christmas. 🎅 ☃️you think we might be taking it easy? No chance! We are in Bourges for an U15/16 international tournament between 🇫🇷 x 2, 🇵🇱 and 🇳🇱 👀looking at talent for 2018 and beyond! pic.twitter.com/vj6mpRZisS
— BlueStar Media (@BlueStarMedia1) December 15, 2017
The Dutch and Polish coaching staffs will be left aware of the level difference that separates them from one of Europe’s most powerful nations, particularly turnovers (over 36 per game) and FT% (15/42!) for Poland and assists (only 7 per game), FG3% (4/28) and turnovers as well (almost 30 per game) for Holland, they had the opportunity to do a reality check of what it takes to compete at the highest international level, giving their players a clear vision of what type of work they need to put in in order to reduce the gap. But they will also have seen some encouraging facts. Not least their players’ attitude on court: both Dutch and Polish players always stayed in the games even when adversity was really overwhelming. The coaching staff always positive as well. Holland knows they can rely on Anouschka Meijer (PG, 5’8, 2002 ; 24mpg-1,7ppg-2rpg-1,3apg-4,3topg-2spg-20%FG2-14,3%FG3) to take care of the ball at the PG position. Maud Huijbens (PF/C, 6’3, 2002 ; 26,3mpg-8,3ppg-8rpg-4topg-41,4%FG2-100%FT) will make sure the boards are in good hands and if she needs help both Vita Stam (PF/C, 6’3, 2002, 20mpg-10,5ppg-5,5rpg-1,5topg -38,1%FG2) and Sofie Bruintjes (PF/C, 6’3, 2002, 19mpg-4,3ppg-3,7rpg-1,3topg-1spg-27,8%FG2-33,3%FG3) are interesting frontcourt options. Poland is quite undersized but has some interesting backcourt options with Marta Sztaberska (PG, 5’4, 2003, 28mpg-14,7ppg-6rpg-3apg-7,3topg-4,3spg-52,6%FG2-33,3%FG3-25%FT) and Maja Pietrzak (PG, 5’3, 2003, 17mpg-4,3ppg-1,7rpg-1,7apg-1,7topg-16,7%FG2-22,2%FG3-50%FT) plus a potential interesting SF in Maia Kozlowska (PF/SF, 5’11, 2003, 21,7mpg-5,7ppg-3rpg-2,7topg-53,3%FG2-25%FT).
— FFBB (@ffbasketball) December 18, 2017
On the French side, in addition to the skilled and impactful Rivière, Diarisso, Hattab & co, they can count on the smart and strong fundamentals displayed by Maia Hirsch (FRA South, PF, 6’2, 2003, 24,3mpg-8,7ppg-6,67rpg-2apg-1topg-1spg-52,4%FG2 -66,7%FT), daughter of Olivier Hirsch, former Bourges Basket head coach and EuroLeagueWomen winner in 2001, Clara Djoko (FRA North, SF, 5’11, 2003 21mpg-13ppg-4,3rpg-1,6apg-1,3topg-3,3spg-63,6%FG2-30%FG3-40%FT) to contribute immediately, as well as on the great shape of guards Leya Kapinga (FRA North, PG/G, 5’6, 2003, 16,7mpg-7ppg-1rpg-1,3topg-1,3spg-33,3%FG2-33,3%FG3-60%FT) and Ines Debroise (FRA North, PG, 5’4, 2003, 21,7mpg-10,3ppg-2apg-2,7topg-1,6spg-53%FG2-33,3%FG3-100%FT). It will also be interesting to follow the very promising prospect Dayana Mendes (SF, 6’1,2004, 19,7mpg-8ppg-4rpg-3,33topg-1,7spg-34,6%FG2-33,3% FG3-21,4%FT), a raw talent who can already impact thanks to a fantastic athleticism.
At the end of the tournament individuals awards were attributed as follows:
MVP : Célia Rivière (FRA NORTH)
Best Scorer: Clara Djoko (FRA NORTH)
Best Rebounder: Maud Huijbens (NED)
Best Passer: Marta Sztaberska (POL)
Best Blocker: Célia Rivière (FRA NORTH)
Best Stealer: Ibtissem Salahy (FRA SOUTH)
From left to right Diandra Tchatchouang (Bourges Basket & FRA NT), Alexia Chartereau (Bourges Basket & FRA NT), Celia Riviere (MVP), Clara Djoko (leading scorer), Marta Sztaberska (leading passer), Ibtissem Salahy (leading stealer), Maud Huijbens (leading rebounder) and Elodie Godin (Bourges Basket, former FRA NT, NED senior NT assistant coach)
ITW Arnaud Guppillotte (FRA: 2018 U17 coach ; 2017 U16 coach – European Champion ; Bourges National Camp Supervision Committee)
Is this the first camp for this group of players?
No, it’s their second: they already participated in a camp in November, at Le Temple-sur-Lot, where they were 72 girls. From these 72, we selected 24 to take part in the tournament here, plus an extra 12 who participated to the camp held here right before the tournament, so a total of 36 girls, half of our original pool. This is the second evaluation for us here in Bourges. We will now pick 20 from these 36 girls for the next camp in March where will be decided who joins the “Centre Federal” and who doesn’t. Out of these 20, we will trim our selection down to around 7-11 players who will eventually pass successfully the whole recruitment process and join the CFBB.
What were your goals coming into this tournament?
We’re mostly doing testing but in a specific environment. Before we came up with the idea of the tournament, which on its 4th edition this year, we were doing it differently: we were already holding this national camp but without opponents, so we would have practice in the mornings and friendly games between us in the afternoons. But we realized it would be better to have another perspective for this selection process. We wanted to test the girls with the pressure of official games to see how they cope with stress, how they make the national jerseys theirs, how they value it. We also wanted to see them face other basketball cultures to help them apprehend what they’re going to be exposed to in the future in international competitions, whether it’s in 6 months for some or in a year and a half for the others.
Talking about further international competitions, what is the program for this U15 group going into 2018?
We are going to participate, as every year, to the “U15 Friendship Tournament” that involves Spain, Italy and Greece. The tournament happens every year in one of the participating countries and this year it takes place in France. It will be in July. But before that we have a series of games every year as well with Germany through the Franco-German Office for Youth (OFAJ: “Office Franco-Allemand pour la Jeunesse” or DFJW: “Deutsche-Franzosische Jugendwerk”). Each country host the series of games every other year. This year it will be in Germany. Our U15 play against Germany’s U16 on that occasion. We play altogether three games.
How did the choice of Poland and the Netherlands as opponents in this tournament happen?
They were the first ones to answer our call. Besides Ireland who participated once, Poland and the Netherlands have been our sparring-partners from the beginning. As for other countries, Spain holds both a camp and an international tournament early December with Italy and Turkey; Poland U16, Slovenia and two other Eastern countries also have a tournament shortly after ours; Serbia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria play the Balkan Next Star Cup in December as well; we play Germany U16 later in the year as I told you… Plus also for some countries it is not always easy to come to France on a pure logistical level. We never really tried to invite Russia actually… The fact is that maybe we will ask other countries next year to participate as we would need somehow tougher opponents to really be able to evaluate our players. We will see. We’re not there yet and we have to act diplomatically without hurting anybody’s feelings and making sure we stay in good terms with present nations.
Tell us a bit about the Federal program FFBB set up a few years back for France’s youth teams that according to you comes to fruition now.
It’s actually not “a” Federal program but several Federal programs. Some ten years ago we had the “l’Avenir en Grand” program (“Big Future” program: aimed at detecting tall players), some fifteen years ago we put the focus on shooting techniques with a harmonization in all French regions, nowadays, under the supervision of Jacky Commeres (former senior NT coach, key member of FFBB’s National Technical Department and head of FFBB’s Elite Department), we work on a common language and a common identity for all players that is being used in our regional academies which consists in introducing and explaining our French basketball identity, how we defend, how we play fast-breaks, transition etc. On the women’s/girls’ side we’ve been harmonizing our style of play from top to bottom for a long time now, but four years ago we took another step in that direction: we harmonized tactical contents, names of plays, names of defensive systems, names of options, well a whole generic content that is the same from our U15 to our U20 teams. Each team of course has specific contents for themselves as well. So yes, we now see all this work, all these policies pay off. We manage to speak the same language very quick. Like here, after only two practices we are able to produce something that looks like quality basketball. It doesn’t look like the girls only met two days before. The tournament started on Friday and the camp began Thursday afternoon. We had a practice Thursday afternoon, another one Friday morning and that was it before competition started!
What is it you are looking for specifically? A player for each position? Big players mostly?
Before anything else, we are looking for talents. Our “Big Future” program allows us to have access to potential big players so we of course do not skip that part but our priority is to detect the best talents each generation has to offer, regardless of their positions. All generations are not equal on that aspect, some have many, like our 2001 generation, and others less. We keep in mind that our work in the end is to fuel our senior NT with the best players possible. This 2003 generation could be playing at Paris 2024, which is only 7 years away.
Since you’re comparing different generations of France youth teams, what do you think of this present pool of players here in Bourges?
This is a very good generation we have here, just like the 2001! Not for the same reasons, not on all positions but this is an excellent generation. Maybe the PG spot is a bit less powerful, but we are very happy with these girls.
Our man @pierrepiotr_ at the international U15-U16 tournament in Bourges with 🇵🇱 play-caller Adam Jubaszczyk and reigning #FIBAU16Europe champion coach Arnaud Guppillotte of 🇫🇷 🏆 pic.twitter.com/aLT7VyC0Ur
— BlueStar Media (@BlueStarMedia1) December 16, 2017
ITW Adam Kubaszczyk (POL U15 coach)
Is this the first camp for this group of players?
We started over the summer with a camp where we gathered 32 girls. After the camp we chose 12 players to represent Poland in Slovenia during the “U14 Slovenia Ball” that took place in August and involved Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine and us. There we competed well winning 3 games and losing 2 by less than 10 points so our level didn’t seem out of place. Now at the Polish Federation we are working with our U14 & U15 NT on the base of a 4 days long camp every month from October to December. We had 2 camps prior to a 3rd one right before coming here. So this tournament marks the end of the work for this year. Our next camp will take place during the winter holidays, that is mid-February.
What were the goals for your team coming into this tournament?
I was the assistant coach for the 2000 generation and came here 4 years ago so I was aware of the level of the French teams. Plus the Netherlands play their U16 team here so the physical gap is quite huge for us. As a matter of fact, with my coaching staff we are asking ourselves if it actually is the right option to come here and face such tough opponents with this group of players. France really is a European powerhouse at all levels. They possess really strong fundamentals and knowledge of the game. I talked with France’s youth coaching staff (Arnaud Guppillotte, Jerome Fournier) and as they told me about their ongoing federal programs, you can tell they’re very well structured and ahead of others at this point. We played in Slovenia some powerful countries such as Italy or Croatia, which should be a good indicator of one’s level, but in comparison France is way above. It has to do with the amount of talent. Each country has a 1 or 2 quality players but with France the scale is different. At this tournament they manage to engage two very competitive teams, and I assume there are even more players able to shine at their disposal. It’s impressive!
So what must Poland do to reach this level of play?
The thing is that in Poland basketball comes after soccer, after volleyball, even after handball. The public interest and any given sport’s impact comes first from the results of the senior NT. Until we manage to achieve good results with our senior NT we will not be able to make huge progress. For instance our women’s NT already struggles to qualify for EuroBasketWomen Final Round. Yet we take it step by step and move forward. 3-4 years ago we started to prepare for U16 European Championship starting from our U14 NT, meaning we have a 2 years long preparation. Before that it used to be only 6 months. A tournament like this one here in Bourges is a great opportunity for us to check our level and see what we have to work on. We could play opponents of more or less the same level as ours but then our flaws would not be as visible. To underline the fact that we are making progress and moving forward is that all of our youth teams (U16-U18-U20) are in division A now, something that did not happen all the time in the past. Our first goal now is to cement our division A positions, something our new federal program starting from U14 should only help us achieve, and then aim at being a stable top 8 position country.
Is there any plan by the Polish Federation (PZKosz) to gather all the players from a generation in one academy?
For the moment we have several specialized schools across Poland that receive extra funds and material to develop players before U16, but there is no U14-U16 specific academy for the moment. Such a program in Poland starts only after U16. Both the boys and the girls have a special academy where they are gathered. The girls are in the northern suburbs of Warsaw in a town called Lomianki. We have a group of 24 players there we select after the U16 European Championship.
What do you think of your players now that the tournament is over?
Our girls have a lot of work ahead of them! I was trying to make them realize during our camps about our overall requirements, our basketball values and what standards they need to follow. The problem is that we see don’t see them enough in order for our efforts to come into full effect. Moreover in their respective clubs they are the stars, the key players. It’s hard to have them maintain a certain intensity, a certain philosophy of play since they don’t have to push themselves too much. That’s why a tournament like this is extremely valuable for us. They realize how far they are from the top international level and how much hard work they have to put on a daily base, be it with the NT or with their clubs.
How does the situation look like regarding the Federal coaching approach? Do you have a common language for all youth teams?
We are getting there slowly. Last year in April we had our first meeting with the coaches of all our youth teams where we discussed the direction we wanted to give to our youth program, focusing on the youngest teams (U14-U15-U16). This 2003 generation is somehow the first generation that benefits from these new approaches. For instance we decided not to run systems, no pick’n’roll in that category. We emphasise on 1-on-1 skills, cuts, backdoors, etc. We want them to learn how to play and move properly without the ball. Of course both French teams we played exposed all of our flaws at this point but that’s the only way we’re going to improve. It would be easy, easier, for us to play zone defense, a lot of pick’n’roll, etc., but it wouldn’t develop our players’ individual skills fully. This is our philosophy now, maybe we’ll realize we need to make adjustments at some point but we believe in this idea. Now the plan is to propagate this philosophy to each of our 16 “Regional U13 teams” (“Reprezentacje Wojewodzkie”) who constitute the base of our future U14-U16 teams. For now we’re still far from this harmonization but the idea is to create a common language touching all levels of our structure from regional selections to NT’s. The Polish U13 Championship (“Ogolnopolska Olimpiada Mlodziezy”, OOM) will take place at the beginning of February. For now it is a bit wild, every team does things differently and every team’s goal is to win and not necessarily to improve their game which often leads to undesired shortcuts in players’ development. We want to address this. In a few years I hope that the coaches who will be in charge of the first U14 camp will benefit from players who already have a common background.
Tournament’s results and final standings:
Day 1 FRA SOUTH 54 – FRA NORTH 76 | POL 51 – NED 58
Day 2 FRA SOUTH 70 – NED 30 | POL 41 – FRA NORTH 88
Day 3 FRA SOUTH 82 – POL 36 | FRA NORTH 54 – NED 43
1/ FRA NORTH (3-0)
2/ FRA SOUTH (2-1)
3/ NED (1-2)
4/ POL (0-3)
FRA NORTH: 73ppg-43,3rpg-10,7apg-20topg-15,3spg – 47,8% FG2 – 23,8% FG3 – 67,3% FT
FRA SOUTH: 68,7ppg-46rpg-8,67apg-24,33topg-19,33spg – 42,2% FG2 – 22,2% FG3 – 66,6% FT
NED: 43,7ppg-44rpg-7,7apg-29,6topg-13spg – 32,9% FG2 – 14,3% FG3 – 55,5% FT
POL: 42,7ppg-39,3rpg-10,7apg-36,3topg-12spg – 34% FG2 – 23% FG3 – 35,7% FT