Digue Diawarra, Abdoulaye N’Doye and Bathiste Tchouaffe join Jules Rambaut as the French quartet can achieve the U16-U18-U20 European Championship generational three-peat if they win in Chemnitz – Photo FIBA

Chemnitz, Germany (heinnews) – France come into the FIBA U20 European Championship 2018 on a high. Not only did Les Bleus win the FIFA World Cup title in Russia but the cadet team grabbed their first ever medal at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup by reaching the Final. Captain Bathiste Tchouaffe and co. in Chemnitz have their own history staring them in the face – the generational three-peat of possibly winning the U16, U18 and U20 European Championships after grabbing the cadets crown in 2014 and the juniors in 2016.

Tchouaffe is one of four left-overs from the other two winning teams along with Abdoulaye N’Doye, Digue Diawarra and Jules Rambaut.

Lithuanian international Edgaras Ulanovas – the leader of the second and most recent team to achieve the feat – has a message to the French team: Expect everyone’s best punch.

Ulanovas knows what he’s talking about as he was won of seven Lithuanians from the 1992-born generation who captured the titles at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2008, FIBA U18 European Championship 2010 and FIBA U20 European Championship 2012 – along with Evaldas Aniulis, Vytenis Cizauskas, Rolandas Jakstas, Deividas Pukis, Dovydas Redikas and  Tautvydas Sabonis. That generation also included Jonas Valanciunas, but the NBA star center did not play in the U20 tournament. The golden generation also captured their only title at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in 2011 – with Valanciunas as the MVP and six of the other seven on board missing only Aniulis.

The only other team to accomplish the generational three-peat was the 1987-born group from Serbia/Serbia & Montenegro/Yugoslavia. Milos Teodosic and Milenko Tepic were the leaders of the team while Nikola Dragovic, Marko Durkovic, Branko Jereminov, Dragan Labovic and Nenad Zivcevic all won the 2003 U16, 2005 U18 and 2007 U20 titles as well.

heinnews caught up with Ulanovas and asked him about the expectations going into the U16 and U18 tournaments knowing they had the dominant Valanciunas on board; what it was like not having the big man on board for the U20 European Championship and what the historical significance of the feat is. Not to mention a bit of advice for the French team embarking on history.

The U16 title was the country’s first ever in the age category and first European crown since 1996. And then two years later you guys won Lithuania’s first U18 title since 1994. What did it mean for this group to win those two golds?

Ulanovas: The expectations were high after the U15 Olympic festival because we won the gold. Also Jonas Valanciunas came into our roster and we really dominated in the U16. At the U18, we had big confidence to win it again but we had big difficulties in the Semi-Finals against Serbia and with a big effort in the last quarter we won in the final seconds. After the U18 gold medal, we were very happy because we won in Lithuania and it was special to win in front of our fans and families. 

In 2011, Lithuania was U19 world champion for the first time in history. Tell us how you and the team was feeling?

Ulanovas: The U19 was not too good at the beginning: We lost the first game but somehow we won the group and played better and better. But we lost last game in the second round against United States. After that we won the gold by beating Serbia again and of course I remember USA losing in the Quarter-Finals to Russia. We expected to play USA, but they lost. Again, the feeling was amazing. We played in Latvia and lots of Lithuanian fans came to support us. It was something special to win the U19 World Cup.

In 2012, Jonas Valanciunas wasn’t at the U20 European Championship. What was the team’s mindframe without him, especially because he had been so dominant; and how did the team end up taking the U20 title?

Ulanovas: The U20 was really up and down. We were lucky to qualify to the playoffs. Without Valanciunas, Lithuanian media started to talk that we would not even win a medal. Of course, that talk hurt our feelings a lot and we wanted to win like never before. The beginning was bad. We had too much confidence in ourselves and lost in the group twice in three games. In the second round, we knew we needed three victories. After beating Spain we lost to Latvia and in the last game we beat Turkey. We went back to the hotel and watched the game between Slovenia and Spain. If Spain won we were out, and if Slovenia won we were in second place. Slovenia won at the buzzer and the whole team was celebrating in the hotel like crazy.

Then we said, Come on guys, no more jokes. Let’s show who we are. We beat Greece and Serbia and in the final we gave all our hearts to beat France in the very ugly game, 50-49.  For me this one title was the most special of them all. After all the difficulties, we showed we are a good team even without Valanciunas.

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So, you and the team had done it. The European U16, U18 and U20 generational three-peat as well as the U19 World Cup. What did it mean for you and the generation to have won all four?

Ulanovas: I think it’s a big honor to be the part of the history and everyone is remembering now how fun it was to play back those days.

Your generational three-peat is only the second in the history of Europe along with Milos Teodosic, Milenko Tepic and the 1987 Serbian generation. What do you think when you hear that?

Ulanovas: It’s not easy for sure, but now I can say it’s a big thing because the players who did it before are very good players and it’s nice to be the part of them.

France’s 1998 born generation has a chance to join the Serbian 1987 and Lithuanian 1992 generations as three-times winners. What advice would you give them?

Ulanovas: My advice is to know that it’s gonna be harder than ever. All the teams who lost to France before are waiting to beat you; and for France, this is your last youth chance so do your best to prove you are good.”

END

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