By Albert Robledillo
Pierre Parker has experienced the evolution of some of the best French prospects who have recently arrived to the NBA, helping them to reach the highest level. Now, the U18 Asvel coach is trying to guide a loaded French generation to follow Theo Maledon’s path.
Asvel again went to Valencia with a very young team and put in troubles some of the best teams in Europe…
Collectively, it was a good tournament but we have to learn how to close games. We had the youngest team and also some of the best potential players of the competition but we lacked of experience. We had lack of bigs but we played in the way according to the players we had and who was in the floor. We were close to reach the final [they lost by 10 points against Joventut in the key game of the group] and we missed to have stops in some moments in the tournament. Usually we faced teams with more players than us and some of our major players had to play a lot of minutes.
What is the best approach to face this type of tournaments with a roster full of even younger players?
It’s a lifetime opportunity, a high-level competition against the best players in Europe. We always want to compete and try to win and reach the final eight. We are very lucky to participate in this tournament; and when you play you always want to compete. Valencia is the best tournament because you are playing against the best teams in Spain and it gives you the chance to see who you are and how good you are. But at the same time, we shouldn’t have the pressure of winning, no one expects us to be the champions so you just can show up and do your best.
We are seeing a new wave of very promising players in France...
We have a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of professional teams to be able to develop players. INSEP takes usually the best ones and as a club you try to develop them with the overall fundamentals. What we see in general is French players are very good at many things like shooting or athleticism but we need to make them improve the IQ, the reads and reactions. And this is something you see easily when you play against Spanish teams. We should teach every player to play at every position. We have, for example, a 2005-player, Stephane Risacher, who is 6’9 and we are not just making him playing in the post.
Theo Maledon was raised in Asvel and just left to the NBA at a young age. Is a reward for the club having these type of players, who you invested on, leaving to be productive away from the team?
The main goal is to create players to be in our Pro team because we don’t have a financial budget like the most powerful teams in Europe have. But you have to focus on try to develop the player as much as you can so they can be productive at a Euroleague-level. Theo [Maledon] played for two or three years with the pro team and we took advantage of it. But then it’s also the reality that if they are really good they take their own way.
What does Asvel provide to the young French prospects?
Our academy is like a college campus. They have food, they go to school, they live in there, and of course they practice two times per day, which is most than other professional teams do. You do everything in the same place and this is the main privilege of having the academy because everything is taken care of. From a basketball standpoint we focus in every player and we try to develop them as individuals.
Killian Malwaya (2005) had the All-Tournament honours in the Valencia ANGT. How kids like him react to this spotlight at that young age?
The age, to me, is not the most important thing here. The most important is to be able to perform at a high level of competition and he needs to know that next year they’ll come at him harder and then he has to show that he is ready to take the next step.