Batum: 'I don't want to wait'
Batum : " I don’t want to wait "
European champion with the under 18s then under 20 teams, Nicolas Batum isn’t short of ambitions. At the age of 20, the Portland swingman hasn’t got time to lose and wants to "do something big" at the European championships which start Monday in Poland. The revelation of the qualifiers, the ex-Le Mans player is aiming for a medal and is insistent about the togetherness of the group that he discovered in mid July.
"When you’re used to winning with with this jersey as a youth, you want to keep winning with the men. It would bring it to a whole new level. I don’t want to wait, I want to win now." That’s Nicolas Batum. No stonewalling, no hiding his ambitions. On the eve of his first official tournament with the Mens squad, the young Norman (20 yrs old) admits he’s "excited and impatient" with the prospect of battling it out with the big boys of the continent, and he’d like to confirm the titles he won with the under 18s (2004) and the under 20s (2006).
Brilliant and not the least bit intimidated, starting with his first cap in Italy (20 pts 8 rbs), the ex-Manceau confirmed his huge potential during the following qualifiers, notably the return game against the italians (18 pts 8 rbs 6 int), proving in that time that he’s not simply a defensive specialist, his main calling card during his first NBA season. He’s even surprised himself. "I didn’t think I was going to be that good, he admitted before flying to Poland. Defensively, I’ve been doing it all year so I know I’m good, but I surprised myself on offense. I don’t know if I can score 30 but I know that I’m capable of having an impact and getting an edge over my opponents on a few given plays"
"We’re really 12 guys together"
Marco Belinelli discovered this at his own expense, and France’s next opponents should keep an eye out for a player who wasn’t necessarily expected this early at this level. He fits in well with the team, even though he admits that "in the beginning, (he) was a bit apprehensive because there’s a lot of stars, and they already had a very close knit group", the Blazer also had the pleasure of seeing his ‘buddy’ Antoine Diot, with whom he shared all his successes in the youth teams and with Le Mans Basketball, join the team along the way, and get off to a good start as well. Still the two friends haven’t set themselves apart, exchanging and conversing with their elders in a big transgenerational maelstrom.
An atmosphere that is in stark contrast with that of 2003, when Parker, Abdul-Wahad, Julian, Foirest and co finished a pathetic fifth at the European championships. "From what I’ve been told about it, the generation gap created divisions, whereas now we’re really 12 guys together", is the neo-bleu’s analysis, who by no means wants to live through the same kind of failure, and is also aware that for the big names such as Parker, Diaw, Turiaf and Pietrus, the opportunities to perform well in international competition are dwindling. "I want to help them do something big because they’ve got such a huge potential and they’ve been through a lot of disappointment when they could have done great things…, he sighs. Even sitting in front of my TV I was crying with them! I really want to help them achieve it because they’ve been criticized so much over the last few years it makes me mad!"
The campaign kicks off Monday with germany, against whom "we’ll have to be careful". But the Calvadosian has already figured out one of the usual pitfalls of les Bleus: "mental preparation. When we thought: "this team isn’t as good, we know we’re going to beat them", we fell short twice in a row! We have to learn from that." Mind and body…