By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
Cologne, Germany – “For us to have success we need to understand that… he’s the perfect example on how to play winning ball,” France superstar and captain Evan Fournier said after the win of his national team over Lithuania in Round 2 of the EuroBasket.
Who is the man for whom Fournier drops such a quote, you might wonder. Who’s the player that he, as the go-to guy and one of the most prominent players of the French national team, lauds in such fashion? That he describes his way of playing and behavior on the floor as a guide for the rest of the squad.
Fournier’s comment wasn’t about one of the de-factor leaders, the veterans, or the experienced and seasoned players. It was for national team newcomer, a debutant in international tournaments and previously virtual unknown – at least for people outside of France – Terry Tarpey. One of the x-factors in the win of the French team, like a hidden ace in coach Vincent Collet’s sleeve.
“I guess for some people it’s “out of nowhere but I’ve been working for this moment all my life,” Tarpey, all smiles, said after the match. “And I’m glad I could help the team tonight and bring that energy and everything we needed.”
Tarpey, was a starter and had quite the winning impact down the stretch for France, particularly on the defensive end. With six minutes to play and his team down 60 – 57, Tarpey stole the ball and hit a 3-pointer for the corner to tie the score. He then pulled off a big defense on Ignas Brazdeikis with a block.
Lithuania struggled to score while Tarpey continued being an omnipresent defensive presence. He stole another ball and, on the other side of the floor, Thomas Heurtel hit the jumper for the 64 – 69.
“That’s just my style of playing,” Tarpey said. He finished with eight points, four rebounds and four steals. “Now people in France start to appreciate what I can do without the ball in my hands. I love the game of basketball and I love to do this kind of things.”
France didn’t get “just a win” in the second round of a EuroBasket Group stage and while there are four matches remaining. This powerhouse clash was a must-do affair for a French squad that was coming off a loss and horrid performance vs. Germany in Round 1 of the “Group of Death” that also includes reigning champion Slovenia. A defeat in the hands of Lithuania would not only drop Les Bleus to 0-2 in the toughest EuroBasket Group but also force them to deal with some mounting psychological and mental pressure.
This is why Tarpey’s contribution was so much valuable and appreciated by players like Fournier who, by the way, produced 27 points.
“We improved pretty much everything,” Tarpey said. “The Lithuanians is a really good team. We knew we had to bounce back from the loss against Germany. We shot better. We cut harder. We played more physical. We made shots. Rudy [Gobert] did what he had to do. It’s a little crazy talking about Rudy like that and having him as one of my best friends and my teammates.”
Tarpey, who was born in France to former player Terry Tarpey and Ann Dzenutis, was named to the preliminary 17-man roster of the French national team before summer’s 2023 World Cup Qualifiers. He had averaged 8.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists with Le Mans in the 2021-22 French Jeep Elite League.
France assistant Pascal Donnadieu strongly vouched for him and made a push that he should join the training camp. But most expected Tarpey to be cut early and don’t make the EuroBasket squad. Including Fournier.
“I’m not gonna lie,” said the New York Knicks wing. “When the first group of players for the preparation came out in July, we had 17 players. In my head I was already thinking about the final 12. And I tell myself, ‘He’s gone.'”
Far from it actually. Tarpey didn’t go anywhere. He worked hard and made an impression enough to keep his spot on the roster. His solid performances in the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers sealed it as Collet began seeing that that he brings some elements like toughness, scrappiness and physicality that can be invaluable for the team.
“I must recognize that I wasn’t thinking that he’d be part of the final team,” Collet said. “I wasn’t sure. But what he did during the camp and the first games gave us the idea that he could be a piece. It’s a new team and it’s important that everyone can find his role. Terry is one of those who have found it already.”
Now Tarpey is part of the band and embraced by the members of the rest of the national team.
“They just treat me like one of their own,” Tarpey said. “It’s really important especially due my background and being a French-American this kind of thing. They accept me like one of their own. It’s really important and that’s just gives me that extra bit energy and motivation to play hard for them.”
Tarpey joined a French team that finished second in last year’s Olympic Games and, naturally, plays to win everything at the end of the road. Nothing than the gold medal will be completely satisfying for Les Bleus.
“It’s not too intimidating for me because I always set my objectives and goals and are really high,” Tarpey said. “I want to play for the gold now and I want to play for the championship with Le Mans. I love playing this kind of games and playing on the road, and it felt like playing on the road tonight.”
“It’s fun. Tonight I was myself, I brought the intensity and hit open shots. They can expect me being myself the next time too.”
Photo: FIBA Basketball