SAITAMA (FIBA World Championship) - France captain Boris Diaw led France to a fifth-place finish at the FIBA World Championship.
Averaging 11.9 points, six rebounds and 2.4 assists, a player who is among the most versatile in the world did a little bit of everything to make sure his country remained among the elite in the international game.
Diaw, 24, spoke to Simon Wilkinson on behalf of FIBA after France beat Turkey to secure fifth place.
FIBA: You led France to a fifth-place finish, their best result in a very long time. Is it a good result for you?
Diaw: "Well, it's a good result. Looking back on the tournament, other than the game against Lebanon where we really didn't do well, we lose to Greece who are in the finals and to Argentina who played for the bronze medal. So we don't have anything to feel sorry about. If we overlook the loss to Lebanon, the only two games we really lose are against Argentina in the group stages and Greece who could become world champions."
FIBA: How do you feel the team reacted after the quarter-final loss to Greece?
Diaw: "We responded well. We won both our games after that. It was a bit tougher against Germany than against Turkey, but at the end of the tournament, there were two sets of four teams, the ones that made it to the semi-finals and the ones that didn't get past the quarter-finals. So to finish first in the latter group and be behind the big four is great."
FIBA: What do you think of having an all-European final with Greece facing Spain?
Diaw: "I think it's great. It shows the quality of basketball played in Europe. All the Greek guys play in Euroleague and the same is true of the Spaniards. There's a lot of talent in Europe."
FIBA: You played without Tony Parker, who broke a finger on the eve of this tournament. France also brought in some new faces who were not a part of last year's bronze-medal winning side at the EuroBasket. Is it fair to say that there's still a long way to go to get the right chemistry?
Diaw: "Yeah, we still have a lot of work to do because we're one of the youngest teams in the tournament, but we're going to work really hard and we have players who can progress individually and collectively."
FIBA: Knowing that you finished third among the European teams in the competition has to be an encouraging result ahead of next year's EuroBasket in Spain?
Diaw: "It's good to finish third behind Greece and Spain. We knew that quite a few European teams would make it through to the knockout stages and being in the top three is a good result. And now we'll start working towards the European championship."
FIBA: What does France need to do to get on the same level as Greece and Spain?
Diaw: "We just have to keep working together. We don't have the same familiarity they have with one another yet, but their teams have been together for a few years. We also need to get more experience because this is a young team. That will come in time, as we play in more international tournaments."
FIBA: Some would question if your versatility is maybe a negative as much as it is a positive. You can play every single position on the court. How do you see it?
Diaw: "I guess it's a bit of both. The weakness is that you do a bit of everything so you spread yourself across several categories and you can't really lead in one area. You can't have a huge impact in being a scoring leader or the best in rebounding or passing because you have to do a bit of everything. So that's the weakness, but at the same time, you're involved in every area and that's a big positive that outweighs what you might call a negative."
FIBA: Still on the subject of your versatility, did you ever feel a bit confused or lost in some games?
Diaw: "I guess you have your moments where you think maybe you're supposed to be playing down low when in fact you should be out on the perimeter. It happens."
FIBA: What do you think France need in terms of players? Do you need a few versatile players or just some role players?
Diaw: "You need both. You can't just have role players in a team, who have a set role. And you can't just have versatile players. Maybe one or two versatile players and some role players to complement them."
FIBA: How about your role as a captain? When the tournament started, you said this wasn't your team, but rather the team of 12 players. Do you still feel the same or is it maybe a bit more yours?
Diaw: "No, it's still a team of 12 players. I haven't had huge responsibilities during the tournament. I think it's gone well and everybody has had a chance to be a leader in one of the games by contributing to our cause."
FIBA: Aymeric Jeanneau, Joseph Gomis and Yannick Bokolo each had their chance to take on the playmaking duties in Parker’s absence. How do you rate their performances?
Diaw: "I think they've done really well. They all had their moments during the tournament when they contributed to the team's success. As I was saying in regards to the role of leader, every player has at one point taken on that role by being important in a game or a phase. Mamoutou Diarra did it, the point guards did it, Ronny Turiaf as well. Every player has contributed to our success in finishing fifth. Everyone deserves this result."
FIBA: Based on their performances here, do you think that players deserve to be on the team for next year's EuroBasket?
Diaw: "Of course, but it's not up to me. It's a selection process. So we'll see what happens."
By Simon Wilkinson, FIBA