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Theo Maledon, 17 years old and international, in Parker's footsteps

Before his debut in Blues, Theo Maledon was selected at the end of December, for the All Star Game of the championship of France.
Before his debut in Blues, Theo Maledon was selected at the end of December, for the All Star Game of the championship of France. LUCAS BARIOULET / AFP

He grew up in the suburbs of Rouen, went through the Haute-Normandie Espoirs, the Federal Center at the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance (Insep), and exploded in the French league even before his majority. Two basketball players respond to this portrait. The first, Tony Parker, weighs four NBA titles, led the Blues to victory at the European Championship in 2013 and is considered the best player in the history of French basketball. The second, Theo Maledon, evolves in the club chaired by "TP", Asvel, and will release, Thursday, February 21 in Espoo (Finland), his first cape team France. At 17 years and eight months.

A precocious phenomenon, the European under-16 champion (in 2017) and vice-world under-17 champion (in 2018) precedes Tony Parker or Antoine Rigaudeau, who waited for their majority to take on the blue jersey. . "Representing your country is truly an honor"the young man breathes, who has easily integrated into the blue group – it is true of many neophytes (except Andrew Albicy, the 44 selections, no player exceeds the ten capes).

Already invited to the previous international window – with another great hope, Sekou Doumbouya – to train with the Blues, the Normand will now wear the blue jersey. And take a date with the future. "The interest of this international window is to be able to test players and to really put them in play situation", assumes Vincent Collet. Like all his colleagues, the French coach composes with an international calendar making them compete for the qualifications at the World Cup (in September 2019, China) without their executives playing in the NBA or Euroleague, the best leagues in the world, for lack of agreement on with them.

The NBA is following its progress closely

However, Maledon (pronounced Maledon) does not usurp his place. The young man left a "Very good impression" to Vincent Collet. "He is very comfortable and we feel that from month to month, he takes confidence and matures. " This dazzling progression does not surprise Bruno Suares, his trainer at the Espoirs pole of Haute-Normandie. The Norman coach has seen this "Small phenomenon that largely dominated its age category under 11 years", and has since followed it, marked by "His ability to see the game faster than others".

Unlike Tony Parker, whose game was based on his explosiveness, Maledon is not a physical monster, but "Understand before everyone else what to do", emphasizes Bruno Suares. These qualities have already been noticed by NBA recruiters, who closely follow the young man's progress – who can claim the 2020 draft.

Interviewed in November by the NBA website, the partners – in Charlotte and in the shareholding of Asvel – Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum have not dried up praise for the kid. For "TP", Maledon "Is better than Frank Ntilikina [qui évolue aux New York Knicks] at the same age, and will one day be among the top 15 in the NBA Draft. "

Even more than the former Strasbourg player, tall leader like him, Theo Maledon (1.92 m) has already established himself in the rotation of one of the best clubs in France. At Asvel, he plays nearly seventeen minutes (7.2 points) per game, and amazes by its precocity. "When young people work well, they deserve their time", assures the coach of the big engine of Lyon, Zvezdan Mitrovic, to The Team.

"When you meet a guy like him, young and with a lot of potential, we want to get him into the field right nowexplains Nicolas Batum. He can make all the mistakes and learn from them now. We want to put him in the best position to have the best career possible. "

Selected for the World Cup?

Relay the coach on the field, the playmaker must lead his partners, and Theo Maledon, little talk, had to "Learn to be more vocal"Bruno Suares explains. Discreet, if not intimidated by the few pickups in front of him on Tuesday at the training of the French team, the bizuth evades the comparison with Parker and Ntilikina, who "Do not have the same game" than him. With a maturity that even bluffed Patrick Beesley, the general manager of the Blues, who attended the blue debut of the Parker generation, the young leader does not seem sensitive to this emotion.

Maledon has a career plan in mind. But do not try to make him reveal, the boy will tell you nothing more than "Clearly, it goes through the NBA". While Tony Parker was able at the same age to unfold his future career – which he then applied to the letter – Maledon remains more discreet. But not shy. For Vincent Collet, he even presents "More insurance" as Franck Ntilikina at the same age (who was working under him in Strasbourg). "Theo is not only respectful of the elders, he is also able to assert himself and take initiative, more than Frank. "

If these last two World Cup qualifiers will not offer China the opportunity for Théo Malédon – many players will be back in blue in the summer – the coach does not refrain from giving him again his luck. "Why authoritatively say it's for 2020 or 2021? The season is not over, we see that it is progressing constantly ", slides Vincent Collet. Accustomed to burn the stages, Theo Maledon "Think not yet". But is aware that his first steps in Blue could accelerate his dazzling career start.

Finland-France, Thursday, February 21, at 18 hours (on Canal + Sport)

Clément Martel

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