By Jordan Sensi
For three or four year, Châlon-sur-Saône is known as the best basketball academy in France (considering only clubs and not the INSEP), let’s see the reasons why. All started in 2006 when a young Swiss guy named Thabo Sefolosha was drafted with the 13th pick by the Chicago Bulls, the small forward, following a great season in Italy, seduced the Bulls front office. Four years earlier, Sefolosha arrived in Chalon to play in a more competitive league than his home-country Swiss’ championship. He spent his first year in the Espoirs team, and then, he joined the professional team where he was an all-star in the French ProA in 2005.
Now, let’s come back on 2010’s years and focus on Chalon’s academy awards:
·2 titles in the U18 French league : 2012 & 2013
·2 titles in the espoirs league : 2012-2013 & 2013 trophée du future
·2 Espoirs league MVP : Yakhouba Ouattara (2013) & Axel Bouteille (2014)
·1 Espoirs coach of the year award : Romain Chenaud (2013)
·2 drafted player : Joffrey Lauvergne (2013) & Clint Capela (2014)
·2 French ProA awards for Clint Capela : MIP 2014 and best young player 2014
From 2009 to 2014, 8 notable prospects play in the Espoirs team: Joffrey Lauvergne, Nicolas Lang, Yakhouba Ouattara, Jordan Aboudou, Matthias Lessort, Clint Capela, David Michineau and Axel Bouteille, at thr pic. All of them also played with the professional squad too. Four of them left the club, Clint Capela to Houston, Jordan Aboudou who were really close to a late second round selection in the 2013 NBA draft joined Gravelines this summer and Nicolas Lang followed his former coach Greg Beugnot in Paris.
8 big prospects
The only problem in Chalon concerned Joffrey Lauvergne, Greg Beugnot, the head coach until 2013 did not trust him and did not like his temperamental. He used to bench him and gave him only 16 minutes in 2012-2013. In December, Lauvergne decided to left his club, he signed a one-month contract in Spain with Valencia and then signed with NIS Partizan Belgrad. 6 months later he will be picked by the Denver Nuggets and 9 months later he will win the European championship with France. He is now one of the best power forward in Europe, only one year and a half after leaving Chalon.
Today, technically 4 of these 8 prospects are still in Chalon, Axel Bouteille is in the professional squad, David Michineau and Matthias Lessort are between the espoirs squad and the professional squad, and Yakhouba Ouattara is on loan in the ProB with Denain. Jean-Denys Choulet, the new Chalon coach is, from players’ point of view, more prone to trust young guys than Greg Beugnot is.
But, after a first month of competition, there are still a lot of questions about the three Chalon prospects. Axel Bouteille (1995) only played 13 minutes in the first three ProA games. David Michineau (1994) and Matthias Lessort (1995) are too good for the Espoirs league but not ready enough to compete every weeks in the ProA in Choulet’s opinion, so maybe they will go on loan later in the season. This could be clearly a win-win situation.
At the moment Chalon still does not know what to do with these two players, Michineau played two games with the Espoirs team and averaged 21 points and 5.5 assists in just 24 minutes (!) and Mathias Lessort averaged 6 points and 5 rebounds in 15 minutes during the two games he played.
An espoirs team full of promises
This season, the espoirs roster counts at least 5 prospects to follow:
-Ibrahima Faye Fall (1997), the MVP of the 2014 Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn decided to join Chalon this summer. He was aware of the reputation of the club and he wants to follow the same trajectory as Clint Capela. If his basketball understanding is still very low, he has already displayed his huge potential. Averaging 11 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18 minutes. He will be one of the most dominant big guys of the league this season. Standing at 6’8 he is clearly undersized for the center position but he did not stop growing up yet.
-Ivars Rihards Zvigurs (1995), the Latvian prospects has been recruited by Chalon last month. After an interesting U20 Euro and a professional experience in Latvia, the very athletic young forward played his first game in France last weekend and scored 12 points with 4 rebounds. He seemed a bit lost on the court but when he will be totally acclimated to his new life in France he will be a player to follow.
-Assane N’Doye (1996), another very athletic wingman. For his second season in the espoirs league with consequent minutes, he is the go-to-guy of the team so far, averaging 14.2 points in 29 minutes. Most of his points are scored in the paint, he is not a reliable shooter, but he has shown off some all-around very interesting abilities.
-Victor Mopsus (1999), Chalon recruited him last summer and trusted him to play in the Espoirs league this season. Just a reminder, Espoirs are 1994, 1995 and 1996-born players this season. Mopsus averages 21 minutes per game so far at point guard position. If he does not make flashy plays, he already displayed a good gestion of his team and stays under control to limit turnovers and get more and more confidence game after game. He is not (yet) a 6 footer but he already has a solid frame.
-Abdoulaye N’Doye (1995), the other big man of Chalon’s paint. With a pretty solid frame and a body ready for the professional level, he is playing big in a very physical Espoirs league. Averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes he is one of the most important players of the squad thanks to his rebounding and defensive abilities. However, he is very row in the offensive hand and seems to have a smaller potential than the 4 other prospects.
Finally, we have to say a word about the coaching staff, because there are no great academies without great coaches. After two collective titles, a coach of the year award and simply a great work, Romain Chenaud decided to leave his Espoirs team. He has been replaced by Maxence Broyer, a 1990-born coach!
Broyer played with the Chalon espoirs team in during three seasons from 2008 to 2011. He was a point guard with a very high basketball IQ and good all-around abilities (10.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists in 2009/2010). Directly after his espoirs cursus he became the coach of the U18 team and after two national titles in 2012 and 2013 he was named at the head of the espoirs team at only 23. Being very strict but smart and well-loved by his players, he is definitely a coach to follow in the future.
Twitter of the author: @Jordan_Sensi