Basketball: from the return of the internationals to the prodigy Wembanyama, how the French championship changes dimension

How about we keep watching basketball. Just five days after the end of Eurobasket, the French men’s championship resumes its rights on Friday, September 23. The opportunity to see again on the French parquet floors unhappy finalists like Terry Tarpey III and Elie Okobo, or even Nando De Colo, back in France after thirteen years of exile. So many names that promise an exciting season, able to take the Betclic Elite to a new level.

Last season was already a good vintage. After missing the Final Four of the Euroleague (C1) by a hair against Olympiakos, Monaco had pushed Asvel Lyon-Villeurbanne to its limits in the final of the French championship. At the end of an epilogue of exceptional intensity and suspense, the Lyonnais had finally pocketed a third consecutive title.

The rivalry between the two behemoths of the championship, both engaged in the Euroleague, has continued to climb since their first final in 2019, already won by Asvel. “Today we have two teams that lead the others to the top, rejoices Alain Béral, the president of the National Basketball League (LNB). It’s great to have this rivalry. Twenty years ago, it was Pau-Limoges. They present budgets that we had never known on the territory and this makes it possible to position French basketball in Europe.

“This rivalry is building, gaining momentum. I hope it will continue for years to come”, continues Elie Okobo. The recent Eurobasket silver medalist with the France team is a perfect illustration of this Betclic Elite which is progressing while retaining its best players. MVP of the final in the colors of villeurbannaises, the rear joined Monaco this summer, despite the sirens of Barcelona, ​​​​Real Madrid or Fenerbahce. He will play alongside one of Europe’s biggest talents, Mike James, who has extended his lease for a further two years.

Elie Okobo will not be the only tricolor international to evolve on the floors of the eighteen clubs involved in Betclic Elite. In addition to Terry Tarpey III at Le Mans or coach Vincent Collet at Metropolitans 92, a slew of international medalists are back.

2013 European champions Nando De Colo and Joffrey Lauvergne have signed for Asvel, 2014 World Cup bronze medalists Kim Tillie and Edwin Jackson will play for Cholet and Nanterre respectively, while Axel Toupane, bronze medalist at the World Cup 2019, continues the adventure started in January with Paris Basket. As a bonus, Adrien Moerman, double Euroleague title holder with Turkish club Anadolu Efes Istanbul, landed in Monaco.

“It’s something I’ve been hoping for for twelve years and finally coming true, savor Alain Béral. They come back because they find conditions similar to those abroad but in a championship that they like, with a level of play that suits them.” Double winner and MVP of the C1 with CSKA Moscow, Nando De Colo preferred Asvel rather than Valencia: “I am happy to be able to return to France. My priority was first of all to stay in a club which plays in the Euroleague, the fact that it plays in the French championship is a plus”, he assured.

“This is great news. For a long time, we had a championship below our French team, with players in the NBA or the Euroleague. Today, the championship is moving forward again.”

Axel Toupane

at a press conference

These numerous and remarkable arrivals confirm the progression of a championship which is however coming back from a complicated period. During the pandemic, club finances were strained by repeated closed doors while revenues depend mainly on ticketing.

“Since I spent two years at Asvel at the start of my career, it has evolved enormously, emphasizes Kim Tillie. In the media, the level of play, the players who sign, the budgets: everything has increased. It is one of the best leagues in Europe after Spain.

To crown it all, the Betclic Elite will be the theater of expression of an exceptional attraction: Victor Wembanyama. Aged 18, the phenomenon of 2.21 m (without shoes) and 2.44 m wingspan will spend his last season in France before flying to the NBA, where his name is expected in the first place of the draft, in June 2023. After his professional debut at Nanterre, then a season at Asvel, the prodigy will perform under the orders of Vincent Collet with the Metropolitans 92, where a personal project has been developed to best support him. .

“The important thing is to consolidate the first place in the draft, he asserts with ambition. I have a very good feeling about the coming year. I want to enjoy this last year in France.” Author of two performances at 34 points in preparation, Wembanyama hopes to confirm in the championship.We may not have another like him, he is a generational player. I’ve never seen that”ignites Alain Béral.

The unprecedented is finally the watchword of the Betclic Elite season which opens on Friday. “I can’t wait to start”, Elie Okobo is impatient. Couldn’t have said it better.

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