By Romain Villachon

In Bourg-en-Bresse, formation is a leitmotiv! Two times U18 final four in the last three seasons (3rd in 2014 and 2nd in 2016) and finalist of the French cup for U17 in 2015, “the JL” is a performing basketball academy in France. The club is not really well known, because his pro team is playing in second French division (Pro B) and that is why they are not even playing at the Espoirs League level. In the same area, Bourg-en-Bresse has a lot of recruiting competition with ASVEL (who is also working on a big academy under president Tony Parker), Chalon-sur-Saône, Dijon and Roanne: they are all fighting for the very best prospects in the area.

To develop their influence, Bourg's staff has started project from 2013/2014 season: EMA academy (École des Meneurs-Arrière), a point guards and shooting guards school. Basically, since it’s really hard for them to recruit and keep big guys, they’ve chosen to focus their effort on backcourt players, starting with very young kids (even U11 category). They don't work only on their own players, as they also bring in the very best players of the area to some practice each week, at the U11, U15 or U18 level, and they hold small basketball camps in holidays time.

The staff has a strong core, with overall director Christian Diot and sports director Frédéric Sarre running a numerous team of coaches, led by Jean-Luc Tissot who coaches the U20 team in French N2 league; and they also bring in during certain periods contributors like Antoine Diot and former players Laurent Sciarra and Pierre Bressant.

Young players start to work in the academy even at age of 9. For the early years, they work a lot on handle skills and ability to run. They are already followed by physical trainer Fabrice Serrano, who works on their ability to properly move, bend, adopt a defensive stance...; at U15 and then U18 levels, staff introduces the work with big men in their development, to improve their basketball IQ of and increase their ability to read the game.

Thibault Desseignet, a 1998-born point guard, is the Academy’s main product so far: selected with most of French youth national teams, he has signed this summer his first professional contract with JL Bourg’s team in Pro B. Pierre Murtin, his U18 coach, says to us that he has been the best player he has ever coached and likes to remember a time when Desseignet won a close game for his team, by calling himself a different type of defense to his teammates in the fourth quarter.

In this first guard-focused basketball school in France, the project is to specifically work on players’ maturity and basketball IQ and to hopefully become a point of reference for backcourt players in the country.

Photo: V. Janiaud