For the first time, two French superpowers will compete in the formula with 34 Euroleague matches: ASVEL and AS Monaco. If the Villeurbannes are in their third consecutive season – the first as a permanent member – the Roca Team is discovering the highest continental level after its title in the Eurocup. Inspiring statistics: this is the first time in 20 years that the two French clubs involved have won their opening match.
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“It’s great to have a competitor like that. It pulls everyone up. Today, we have two real locomotives in the French basket. I love that we have such a competitor. And, with Monaco, it’s been a great love story since 2016. ” In a recent interview given to Progress, ASVEL president Tony Parker says he sees the emergence of Monaco, his arrival in the Euroleague and above all, his short-term objective of obtaining a new lease by targeting the playoffs upon his arrival in the league. . But this is not the objective of Villeurbanne, which is continuing its path with a view to continuing to progress and to make ” as good as last season »(14th after dropping the last matches, after finishing 15th at the end of the championship the previous season).
” For a top 8, I think it’s way too early. We still have to work on our budget (15 million euros, + 27% compared to last year and 4.0 million payroll compared to 6.8 for Monaco) and, personally, I don’t think we get there until we have the new room (scheduled for late 2023). “Now holder of an A license, after two years of invitation, Lyon-Villeurbanne seeks to stabilize at this level before aiming higher.
A lack of experience but an interesting bench depth
And for good reason, TJ Parker’s team lost its three major internationals last season, silver medalists in Tokyo (Yabusele, Fall, Heurtel who did not compete in the Euroleague with ASVEL). But Lyon-Villeurbanne tried bets to replace them (Élie Okobo, Dylan Osetkowski, Kostas Antetokounmpo) by combining them with experienced players (James Gist, freelance, Raymar Morgan, Chris Jones, Youssoupha Fall) to accompany the outbreak of the phenomenon Victor Wembanyama. Coveted by several superteams in Europe, David Lighty has been extended until 2026. Antoine Diot, William Howard, Charles Kahudi, Paul Lacombe and Matthew Strazel have been retained. A mixture of speed and size, strength and exterior shot, youth and experience …
In short, a workforce with a good base of French players, but inexperience compared to the top European level. Before the late arrival of freelance writer James Gist – at 269 Euroleague matches and present until the end of the calendar year – the reigning double French champion was the least experienced team in the competition on paper ( 411 matches played by its squad, compared to 680 in reality at the start of the season). Six players will discover the C1, and as the preseason was strongly disrupted by injuries (Morgan, Lacombe in particular) and the absence of David Lighty (family reasons), the start of the season will be indicative of the group’s state of mind. , who will receive seven of his first games. On the other hand, the bench depth is significant, with at least five different, competitive and complementary starts. And several players have signed multi-year contracts.
A racket up to 4.40 m!
In detail, the new leader Chris Jones, who came to franchise a level after having evolved in the rotation of Maccabi Tel Aviv, will take the reins of the game villeurbannais in the company of the veteran Antoine Diot (52.5% at 3-points per year last) and Matthew Strazel, who has been steadily improving for two years. The combo-guard Elie Okobo returns to France before the desire to show himself (read below) after three years in the United States and will ensure alongside swingmen Paul Lacombe, David Lighty, and William Howard, all capable of bringing by their versatility. Dean of the group, Charles Kahudi will bring his physical presence. The young Kymany Houinsou will discover the Euroleague at the end of the rotation.
Inside, it’s a mix of size and speed. The posts 4 Dylan Osetkowski and Raymar Morgan, among the top scorers of Eurocup and BCL, are rather scorers playing at the low post but being able to rule out the game. The giant Youssoupha Fall (2.21 m) intends to make a work in painting while Kostas Antetokounmpo takes over in rotation. And, at only 17 years old, he will be curious to see the evolution of the phenomenon Victor Wembanyama (2.19 m), whose expectations are very high. With the supporters coming back – and at 100% of its capacity! -, TJ Parker’s team seems to be getting closer to the playoff race this year.
Arrivals : Raymar Morgan (Pinar Karsiyaka, Turkey, 2022), Victor Wembanyama (Nanterre, 2024), Élie Okobo (G-League, 2022), Dylan Osetkowski (Ulm, Germany, 2023), Chris Jones (Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Israel, 2022), Kostas Antetokounmpo (LA Lakers, 2023), Youssoupha Fall (Vitoria, Spain, 2022), James Gist (Bayern Munich, Germany, freelance).
Departures : Amine Noua (Andorra, Spain), Thomas Heurtel (Real Madrid, Spain), Guerschon Yabusele (Real Madrid, Spain), Moustapha Fall (Olympiakos, Greece), Kevarrius Hayes (Bursaspor, Turkey), Norris Cole (Unicaja Malaga, Spain ), Ismaël Bako (Manresa, Spain), Derrick Walton (NBA training camp).
Under contract : David Lighty (extended until 2026), Matthew Strazel (2025), Paul Lacombe (2024), Antoine Diot (extended until 2024), William Howard (2022), Kymany Houinsou (aspirant), Elwin Ndjock (AS license ).
Housekeepers : Chris Jones (1.89m, 28), Antoine Diot (1.93m, 32), Matthew Strazel (1.82m, 19)
rear : Élie Okobo (1.91 m, 23 years old), Paul Lacombe (1.98 m, 31 years old), Kymany Houinsou (1.96 m, 17 years old)
Wingers : David Lighty (1.98m, 33), William Howard (2.03m, 27), Charles Kahudi (1.98m, 35), Elwin Ndjock (2.00m, 20)
Winger : Raymar Morgan (2.02m, 33, injured), Dylan Osetkowski (2.06m, 25), James Gist (2.06m, 34, freelance), Victor Wembanyama (2.19m, 17 years).
Pivots : Youssoupha Fall (2.21 m, 26 years old), Kostas Antetokounmpo (2.08 m, 23 years old).
Coach : TJ Parker (37)
Assistants : Freddy Fauthoux (48 years old), Bryan George (33 years old), Morgan Belnou (31 years old)
The player to watch: Élie Okobo
G-League statistics 2020-2021 : 8.9 points to 38.7% on shots (including 30.4% at 3-pointers and 56.3% on throws), 5.0 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 interceptions for 10.0 d ‘assessment in 27 minutes (14 matches)
Élie Okobo signs his return to France before he wants to prove his worth. After three seasons spent in the United States between the NBA (Phoenix Suns) and the G-League (Northern Arizona Suns and Long Island Nets), the former Elan Béarnais chose Villeurbanne to discover the Euroleague. A measured bet since the door of the NBA referred and he had a good coast in Europe despite a mixed season (only 14 appearances in G-League for discreet statistics and a low percentage on shots). An error of course visibly corrected since the combo-quard scored against Zalgiris at the start of the season 23 points… at 9/9 on shots! The international tricolor (8 caps), member of the France Basket team, will bring a little madness to the Villeurbanese rearguard and may also be called upon to lead the game.
The prognosis: 12th in the regular season
Will the Jones-Okobo back duo succeed in replacing the Cole-Heurtel duo? Will Youssoupha Fall be able to have the same impact as that of his namesake Moustapha Fall in the racket? Can rookies Dylan Osetkowski, Raymar Morgan, Kostas Antetokounmpo and Victor Wembanyama make the Villeurban interior game their main strength? ASVEL advances without certainty, after a truncated preseason. If the top 6 seems out of reach, a dozen teams can legitimately aim for the playoffs this season. Lyon-Villeurbanne is one of them. In constant progress for several seasons, TJ Parker’s team can rely on its experience to ensure a transition and, why not, aim for the top 8. The opening victory against Zalgiris Kaunas is promising but it will still be necessary gain consistency so as not to reproduce the mistakes of last season (delicate start and end of the season).
Still in the fourth division nine years ago, AS Monaco has changed dimension again in 2021. The founding element: the Eurocup title as a good outsider, followed by a summer worthy of the big names in Europe. Budget doubled (from 7.5 to 14.1 million euros), renovated room (capacity of Gaston-Médecin increased to 4,090 places), transfer window without complex… With a total of 12 arrivals, and not the least. Donatas Motiejunas, Will Thomas, Brock Motum, finally, the coup of the year with the signing of Mike James in mid-September.
Popening hoto: Mike James (Euroleague)