By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
After declining the invitation ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games held last summer in Tokyo and instead focusing on individual work, Theo Maledon is back and determined to fight for a spot in the squad of the senior national team of France.
The young point guard is among the remaining selections for head coach Vincent Collet. The Blues are preparing to play the Czech Republic on 24 August and Bosnia-Herzegovina three days later, at the top of the schedule of Group K of the 2023 FIBA World Cup European Qualifiers. From there to the big tournament of the offseason, EuroBasket in September.
Maledon last represented his country in the recent international window wrapping up the previous round of the World Cup Qualifiers. The recent caps marked his return to international action after a couple of appearances in the 2019 World Cup Qualifiers, three years ago.
“I am no longer the same, mentally and physically,” he told French outlet BeBasket comparing himself to the player from three years ago, “I have gained a lot of confidence and experience.”
Maledon, 21, made his way to 116 NBA games as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder the last couple of seasons. From the 10.1 points per game in his rookie season, he dropped to 7.1 points per game in 2021-22 as his playing time was reduced from 27.4 minutes to 17.8 minutes per contest.
“Age matters but the NBA helps me a lot,” he also mentioned during the interview, “Nothing is given, everything is earned. I learned from this and it helped me develop. I know how to stay ready in demanding situations and seize opportunities.”
At the junior national teams of France, he captured gold in the 2017 U16 European championship and was the captain of the team landing the silver medals in the 2018 U17 World Cup. Shifted to the senior level, the next prep game for France is scheduled to be held tonight, Friday. Facing Italy in Bologna is the next step toward potentially succeeding in securing a spot on the final EuroBasket roster.
France’s remaining selections:
Isaia Cordinier (Virtus Segafredo Bologna)
Evan Fournier (New York Knicks)
Rudy Gobert (Minnesota Timberwolves)
William Howard (Joventut)
Mouhammadou Jaiteh (Virtus Segafredo Bologna)
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (Atlanta Hawks)
Theo Maledon (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Amath M’Baye (Anadolu Efes)
Frank Ntilikina (Dallas Mavericks)
Elie Okobo (AS Monaco)
Vincent Poirier (Real Madrid)
Terry Tarpey (Le Mans)
Guerschon Yabusele (Real Madrid)
Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL