By Antonis Stroggylakis / firstname.lastname@example.org
Jakarta, Indonesia – It mattered a great deal to Mathias Lessort to be able to join the French national team this summer for the 2023 FIBA World Cup after finally getting cleared to play following his recovery from an ankle injury.
“Obviously it was a big thing for me to be here to be here and be able to help my country. Help my team achieve something. We want to achieve a big goal,” Lessort told Eurohoops.
Apart from the honor and pride themselves in gearing up for France in a major competition for the first time after the bronze medal run in the 2019 edition of the World Championship, Lessort felt that he couldn’t miss this year’s tournament because he was coming off the most successful season of his professional career.
Lessort finished 2022-23 as a member of the All-EuroLeague team, being one of the team’s leaders in playoff run that ended one win away from making the Final Four. In the ABA League, he helped Partizna Belgrade end a 10-year drought to win the championship.
“It was a very good season for me both individually and with the team, Partizan Belgrade,” Lessort said. “I really wanted to put the cherry on the cake after that season, by being able to be here with the national team and try to win something here.”
A few weeks ago, Lessort’s participation in the World Championship seemed quite doubtful. Since the beginning of the training camp of the French national team, he had been suffering from a persistent ankle problem that prohibited from participating in practices.
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He made a couple of trips to Athens to undergo further examination under the supervision of Panathinaikos Athens and consul his club on his condition.
The more the situation remained uncertain the more frustrating it could get for Lessort. But he retained his optimism, staying positive and assured that when all is said and done he will become available for France.
“It was kind of tough but at the same time it wasn’t,” Lessort said and explained what he meant. “Because I was confident that I will able to play. This is something that falls under the category ‘a lot of things I could control and a lot of things I couldn’t control’. What I could control was how to handle it, stay composed and be confident.”
And if there are any Panathinaikos fans who may be worried about him, Lessort sends them a message of assurance.
“I’m a basketball player,” Lessort mentioned. “Injuries are part of the game. If we stopped playing every time because of an injury, no player would be able to play. It’s a part of it. I was injured but the the team as well gave me the green light.”
“The Greens gave me the green light,” he chuckled with a big wide smile. “It’s a proof that I’m healthy and I’m ready to play because they wouldn’t have done it.”
Lessort is just one of the many heavyweights that headline a French frontcourt that can be described as quite crowded. Apart from Les Bleus superstar and two-time DPOY Rudy Gobert, there’s also Olympiacos Piraeus center Moustapha Fall, a quality combination of skill and size, on the ‘5’.
It’s quite the competition for minutes but one Lessort believes it’s healthy and beneficial for him and his teammates.
“It’s good,” Lessort affirmed. “It’s a good thing for our competition and the group itself. We have a good team. And it’s better to be like this than being the only big man and play on a team where you don’t have many different plays to run. We have Guerschon and with Mous and Rudy on the five. I believe we have one of the best frontlines in the World Cup. It’s a great thing that we have so many different profiles on our big men. Everyone is a different player and can bring in different things.”.
Speaking of Moustapha Fall, their matchups in practices are just a preview of some major fights that are going to take place several times next season when Greek archrival powerhouses Panathinaikos and Olympiacos face each other.
Has the trash talk already begun between Lessort and Fall?
“We talked a little bit [on trash talk],” Lessort said with a chuckle. “But it was more friendly but trash talk.”
“Me and Mous have a great relationship,” Lessort added. “Obviously we talked about it. We were joking that we’ll have to hide if we want to see each other in Athens. Mous is a very good friend of mine. I’m very happy to be here with him and be able to compete with him. He talked to me very highly of Athens. He was one of the guys that I called before I signed. Asking him about the city and everything and he told me very good things about the city and everybody there. I’m looking forward to competing against him.”
Once realizing where I’m from, Lessort also gave me a nice farewell shout.
“Good luck to Greece,” Lessort said as he was leaving the mixed zone.
Photo: FIBA Basketball