Aim for seventh heaven without the star Johannès. The management of the French women’s basketball team has deprived itself, in its quest for the title at Euro-2023 (June 15-25), of its “X factor” which, engaged in the WNBA, cannot fulfill the fixed condition of participating in the entire preparation.
The back of Asvel (28 years old, 105 caps), capable of bright passes and catching fire in shooting, is forced to validate his contract with Liberty New York for the North American championship season (from mid -May to mid-September), to return to the United States and stay there until June 1.
“With the trip, the jet lag, she couldn’t have played the 2nd and 3rd (preparatory matches against China), then we are + off + (rest) until the 7th (last friendly match before the Euro , Editor’s note)”, explained to the press the manager of the Bleues Céline Dumerc.
There remained only “two training sessions and two matches” (including one training) before the Euro, which begins only three weeks after the end of the French season.
Too little, according to the staff, to oil the wheels of a French team which is aiming for its third continental title in Slovenia (after 2001 and 2009) after five successive defeats in the final.
“To be European champions, we cannot afford to arrive at the last moment. Playing at the highest level requires automatisms. Time is running out for me. I think of the shared experience”, underlined coach Jean -Loved Toupane.
The 2022 experience
Last year, for the World Cup at the end of September in Australia, he authorized Johannès and two other players, Gabby Williams and Iliana Rupert, to join the selection once the American season was over – the preparation time allowed was much longer .
“We did not have the expected return, that’s why Aimé left with this in mind” this year, said Dumerc.
After having combined the European and American seasons, Johannès was injured three days before the start of the Blues while Rupert, WNBA champion, had only arrived during the competition, tired.
Williams was there: she finished top scorer for Les Bleues (15.8 pts average), eliminated in the quarter-finals by China, future vice-world champion.
She will miss the European meeting this time after suffering a concussion on May 13 with Asvel, which forces her to observe a rest of several weeks and therefore also miss the start of the preparation.
Without this injury, the Franco-American also would have been “torn”, in Toupane’s words about Johannès, between the lucrative and sportingly attractive WNBA and the national team.
And the management of the Blue would also have had to decide as for “MJ”, who shares the same initials as his idol Michael Jordan from which she took up the number on the jersey (23).
Batum goes up against
According to Toupane, Johannès, crowned champion of France on Monday, was initially not obliged by the WNBA to stay in the United States until June 1, which could have allowed her to participate in all of the preparation of the Bleues.
“But last Friday she called me telling me that we changed her contract, that she had to go,” he explained. “We were all expecting a turnaround and for it to arrive tomorrow (Friday)”, added Dumerc.
The situation has not changed and the absence of Johannès has triggered the ire of the captain of the Blues Nicolas Batum.
“She’s asking for a week to settle a contractual thing and we’re giving her an ultimatum + if you don’t come, you won’t do the Olympics +… I find that extremely disgusting,” Batum said in an interview with online media First Team.
“The Olympics (in Paris) is another subject. We’ll see about next year”, commented Dumerc, former captain of the Blue.
Toupane for his part denies having “closed the doors of the France team to Johannès”, against whom he has “nothing”. “On knows the player she is, what she did for the France jersey”, he added.
But this summer, she will watch her teammates from New York.