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THIS YEAR, LYON IS FEATURING IT’S BIENNIAL CONTEMPORARY ART FESTIVAL.  IT’S GREAT.  DEFINITELY GO IF YOU LIKE ART.  BUT ALSO, THERE IS THÉO MALEDON AND MARINE JOHANNÈS, TWO BASKETBALL SENSATIONS WHOSE POPULARITY IS GROWING.  ONE WENT TO NEW YORK THIS SUMMER TO PLAY IN THE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS, THE MOST DISTINGUISHED IN THE WORLD.  THE OTHER, ALREADY HAS HIS NAME ON THE SHORT LIST FOR THE NEXT NBA DRAFT.
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Interview by Stéphane Peaucelle-Laurens and Alexandre Couailhac
photos by alexandre Guikinger
Translated from French by Florence Beretta

MARINE JOHANNÈS, A ZEST FOR LIFE

1- NBA jam session

I started playing when I was little, 7 years old, I remember that I was supposed to try out judo and my sister basketball.  But as soon as I got to the court, I wanted to give it a try and I’ve never stopped since.  I was really into it, I watched a ton of videos, bought magazines, 5 Majeur Magazine at the time.  Tony Parker was just starting out for San Antonio, and the NBA was starting to get more coverage in France.  I remember I had a DVD on cross passes, I must have watched it 20,000 times.  My favorite players were mostly guards, like Stephon Marbury or Jason Williams.  I knew I wasn’t going to be 6’5’’, so I could identify with them, but I also liked Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

2- AN AMERICAN STYLE GAME

I’ve always liked putting on a show, for me it’s part of the game and I like that about the NBA.  They don’t have that aspect in the French game.  I enjoy it though, and that’s maybe why sometimes, on the court, I do things that are a little different and weird.  I don’t practice my moves or anything, but I will sometimes exaggerate some of them during individual practice.  Most of the time, at games, I will do it spontaneously, without thinking about it.

3- THE MONDEVILLE FAMILY

I played at Mondeville for 9 years. I loved being part of that club, what I learned from my coach Romain L’Hermitte enabled me to sign my first professional contract.  I left Mondeville for Bourges when I was 21, it was a good time to go even if it wasn’t easy to leave my family.  I spent 3 years at the Bourges club.

THEO MALEDON A QUIET STRENGTH

1- BEGINNINGS

started playing basketball at three years of age, for the city of Rouen club.  My Mom was a Physical Therapist and my Dad played at the N1 (national level) and was also a referee.  My parents were always involved in basketball somehow.  For me, it came naturally, and I took to it right away.

Very early on, I was playing with players in categories above mine, especially when I was in the youth category.  I even was even doubly over-ranked in Rouen. Playing against adults?  I never paid much attention to the fact that I was playing with adults.  On the court, they were basketball players and age didn’t make a difference.  

2- The INSEP*

After Rouen, I went to the INSEP for two years.  The facilities there are great, we worked at a fast pace, it never stops, it’s like a factory.  This type of coaching is great when you’re younger.  It’s designed for you to play and concentrate on basketball, which is always an advantage.  The education aspect is right there too.I was a year ahead when I got to the INSEP, and at the end of my first year,I was over classified and I got to play a few games in N1 (the national level). Playing against N1 teams, we took some beatings.  Major losses are tough, it was hard.  It toughens you up, but it still hurts.  When you lose by 30 points at every game, it’s rough…  But later on, when we won the Junior Euroleague, that felt good.  That’s when we said, okay, it wasn’t all for nothing.  What counts is being competitive.

3- THE UNDER 17 FRENCH NATIONAL TEAM

The 2018 under 17 World Championships in Argentina was a wonderful experience with some great guys.  Killian Hayes, Malcom Cazalon and Timothé Crusol were there, among others.  In 2017, the team and I won the European Championship title and we tried to keep the momentum going in 2018.  We had a really good run, we beat Turkey in the quarter finals and Puerto Rico in the semis, which got us in the finals up against the USA.  We lost by a lot, but I think it was a valuable lesson for us.  It enabled us to know what the US’s level was, and also to figure out what we need to work on in order to reach their level.

4- TONY PARKER

Did I have a revelation watching Tony Parker?  No, I wouldn’t say that.  Sure, I would watch what he did and it was impressive, but I never said to myself “he’s doing that, so I can do it too.”  I think that we, I mean our generation, we have always challenged ourselves and tried to excel, which means that we continue to move up.  For us, they’re just goals we set for ourselves and that we want to reach.  It’s not arrogance, it’s confidence.  You need to believe in yourself to have a place in basketball.  This summer, on the French A team, I had ambition, I wanted to go to the World Championships in China, I had nothing to lose anyway, so I figured, better to put in 200% than to turn back.

4- THE ASVEL

A shoulder injury made the beginning of the 2019 season difficult for me, it wasn’t easy, but I continued to train.  It was my first experience in the Euroleague and I realized how different the level was, it’s the best competition in Europe.  I find it very exciting to go up against the best players in Europe.  You can’t be afraid to play against these guys, anyway, my goal is to be among the best.  I want to do well every single time and do better at the next game. That work is what will enable me to reach my goals.  This year, my goal is to be the French champion and to take on the Euroleague games one by one, give my all each time and who knows, get as many wins as I can.

4- THE NBA

I want to go to the NBA and show them what I can do.  I don’t necessarily have a dream player or team, it’s the NBA that I’m interested in.  So of course, it’s on my mind this year, but I do know how to differentiate between this year with ASVEL and next year.

*The INSEP, the National Institute of Sport, Expertise, and Performance (Institut national du sport, de l‘expertise et de la performance), is a French teacher training institute and center for excellence in sports that trains elite athletes.