FRA - Having fun at U19 Women is main focus for Fournier and France
PARIS (2013 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - France head coach Jerome Fournier has insisted his team will focus on enjoying themselves when they tread the hardwood in Lithuania this summer, whilst also trying to break a long-standing curse which has affected a succession of U18 European Championship gold medal winners.
"Having fun and playing our best basketball during the most important games is our biggest expectation," explained Fournier.
"The expectations will be to play the games one by one, by simply playing better than the day before, and not as good as the day after.
"It's a wonderful competition, with a lot of very good teams and lots of good coaches, but there’s only one podium for so many talents.
"We also hope to kill off the Indian sign which has seen the reigning European Champions from the previous year never reaching the podium during the last four FIBA U19 World Championship for Women tournaments."
Certainly France look well equipped to potentially break the jinx, with several young players making their mark this season at the pro-level, a fact not lost on their coach.
"Four of our 'golden Bucharest girls' are playing in the top French League," Fournier pointed out.
"Epoupa and Ayayi are the two who have been spending the most time on the floor and who have had a real impact on their team.
"Olivia in particular continues to have a very interesting season, growing her leadership qualities and controlling her tempo.
"Her progress has been huge, but now she has to develop a regular three-point shot to become a very good playmaker. But, I trust her since she works really hard at a good club with a good coach."
He continued: "Valeriane has also shown good basketball this season, providing the proof she already has the level to play in this top division.
"Moreover, she has developed a very balanced game. She can score in all situations and her defense is really much better."
With players making their mark at an impressively high level, what can we expect to see when they tip off their campaign?
"A wonderful sentence from the poet William Blake defines the spirit of my team - 'The path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom'. All my players have strong personalities and they need to express it, but on the other hand, they are really clever and know when to serve the team," proclaimed Fournier.
"We practice the game which best reflects my players - expansive, but also wise at the same time. A strategy built around a risky game of strong defense, with a lot of pressure and a running game with fast breaks.
"However, also ensuring we can be more controlled, so that when needed, we can play half court in defense and in offense.
"My team is like a chameleon and the story of our game is that we can change the colour of the way we play."
It continues to be boom time for France when it comes to women's basketball. It was Fournier and his players who added a new chapter to an already glorious history when scooping a historic first ever U18 European Championship Women gold medal last year by way of their 65-61 success against Russia in a gripping final in Bucharest.
And the coach is eager to add to his nations' impressive honours list in what is another hugely important year for the sport.
"French women's basketball lived an amazing time last summer with a silver medal at the Olympics and of course our gold at the U18 European Championship," smiled Fournier.
"This summer, we are organising a big event with EuroBasket Women and so a good performance in Lithuania would further help to reward all the work provided by the Federation in respect of this.
"Hopefully our own result will follow a big result from our senior team in France."