NEW YORK (NBA/Olympics) – After years of disappointment, France achieved its full potential by reaching the Final at EuroBasket in Lithuania last September. While they lost to Spain, Vincent Collet's side has come away from that tournament fully focused on winning a medal at the London Olympics.
Led by some of the most talented players around - including the likes of Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum - “les Bleus” will have one of the most complete rosters of the teams competing in the Olympic Basketball Tournament.
But the newest sensation of the French national team has been Joakim Noah. After struggling for a long time to find a starting centre, France finally found in the Chicago Bulls big man the perfect player to fill the void at that position.
Coming off his fifth season in the NBA, the New York native showed yet again he is the defensive pillar of his team and one of the best centres in the league.
Despite the surprise elimination of the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, Noah is confident about his team’s future.
"I’m very disappointed to have lost in the first round after having such an incredible regular season. But we are a strong group of players. We’ll learn from that and be a better team next year, for sure," Noah told Fiba.com.
"I had some difficulties at the beginning of the year, but I think that I’ve done my best for the team this season."
"But I’m a hard-working person. I’ll keep practicing to get better in order to help my team reach the top."
Dealing with a sprained ankle since the beginning of May, Noah is working hard to recover on time to play for the French national team.
"I hope that I’ll be healthy and able to play for France this summer. I’m working hard to be back on the court as soon as possible," he explained.
Having made his senior national team debut in 2011, Noah quickly became one of the most important players in Collet’s squad after playing at a very high level in Lithuania.
"It was incredible for me to be part of this team. My teammates and I had such a great time in Lithuania, winning this silver medal. It’s one of the best moments of my career so far," Noah conceded.
The former University of Florida player will be realising one of his lifelong dreams by playing in the Olympics.
"It would be incredible to take part in the Olympics. It’s one of the best competitions for an athlete. Playing in London will be a dream come true," he said.
"It will be extraordinary for all my teammates. Especially for some of them like Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Florent Pietrus who have been fighting for 10 years to take part in this competition."
The son of French tennis legend Yannick Noah is in no doubt that France has what it takes to get back on the podium at an Olympics for the first time since 2000 - the last time they played in the Men's Olympic Tournament.
“Our group is very talented. We have a lot of very good players and everyone is extremely motivated to help France do its best during the competition," Noah said.
"We’ll fight for a medal."