AS Monaco Basket, second, receives this Tuesday at 7 p.m. Fenerbahçe, leaders of the Euroleague. A duel at the top in which the Frenchman Elie Okobo will have his say. Monegasque since this summer, the former leader of Asvel quickly made his mark in the principality.
You were MVP of the Betclic Elite finals with Asvel last season (against Monaco), how were you received by your ex-opponents to whom you made miseries?
It went well! I arrived a little late because I was with the France team. I was not able to do the preparation with the group but when I arrived I was immediately very well received. We didn’t specifically talk about the finals of the year (laughs).
When we saw this XXL squad build up this summer in Monaco, we wondered if a single ball would be enough on the pitch…
I think so. We are creators. There are a lot of people who are used to having the ball in hand but we are a group. We manage to share the ball pretty well. There is still a lot of work to be efficient and consistent but for the moment I think we are doing a good job. We’re still getting to know each other, it’s the start of the season and we’re going to do everything to get stronger.
After defending on him, how does it feel to have Mike James as a teammate?
It’s good, it relieves a little pressure. When you’re in a team where it’s us who have the responsibility to create each time, after a while the defenses adapt. There we have players with Jordan Loyd and Mike James who can create and be aggressive in every way. It makes it difficult for defenders. It’s up to us to be regular and not to force things.
Don’t you step on it a little sometimes?
We are basketball players, I think we have a little experience. We are able to adapt with or without the ball. You also have to know how to get into the spots to have open shots and move the defense.
In the league (7-2) as in the Euroleague (6-2), the Roca Team has a positive record but there have been missteps recently… How do you explain this difficult period with these 3 defeats in the last 4 games? ?
There is a lack of regularity in the commitment. When we chain the matches, we play big teams, behind we arrive in Betclic and there is perhaps a little relaxation. We can’t afford it because every team that plays against us plays a very important game for them in the season. They want to make a hit all the time and it’s up to us to respond. You have to be consistent on energy, commitment and focus.
What is this team missing to be more consistent?
We have to start games with a lot of defensive energy and create simple things. That way everyone trusts each other. Same for our third quarter debut because it was also complicated in some games. Sometimes you also have to do simple things to get the ball moving, we have quality and everyone can bring something to the group.
Facing you is Fenerbahçe (7-1), not necessarily the best opposition to get back on track…
It’s a team that performs, plays well, moves the ball well. They’re coming home so it’s going to be war, it’s going to be a fight. We will have to be ready because this is the kind of team that is aiming for the championship, which is aiming for the Euroleague trophy, so we want to face this kind of team.
Monaco failed at the gates of the Euroleague Final Four last season, lost again in the final of the French championship (as in 1950, 2018 and 2019). What are the goals for this season?
To be able to bring a first title to Monaco would be huge! I would love to contribute to it. Behind going far in the Euroleague, as they were able to do last season, it would be good. But for that you have to give yourself the means and be efficient. We work for that.
And on a personal level, have you set goals?
Continue to progress! I want, at the end of the season, to realize that I have evolved. I still have to work on my game, be even more consistent on many small aspects. It means gaining leadership experience, being consistent, getting better at decision-making. It is by playing that we learn and grow.
This summer with the France team you brought home a silver medal from the Eurobasket. What do you keep from this campaign with the Blues?
What a positive! I was able to face very strong European players. I learned a lot about what it takes to go for a medal. Defensive energy, collective play, erasing as many errors as possible in the game… I try to transcribe all that in Monaco.
Focus now on the World Cup next year (August/September 2023)!
Yes, we qualified during the last international window. The guys are doing the job. We’ll see how it goes next summer.
There is one who stood out during this window, it was Victor Wembanyama. You rubbed shoulders with him, he’s a phenomenon…
He was my teammate last year. He is very promising and brings a lot this season to his Boulogne-Levallois team which has a very positive record. He performs every time, in the France team now too. Everything is going well for him!
He is expected to be number 1 in the next draft. You who know the NBA (drafted in 31st position by the Phoenix Suns in 2018, 108 games played), what advice do you give him?
He has to prepare for adversity, not always to be in a comfort zone. Despite this, he must be able to be consistent in his performance. Afterwards there are some who are drafted high and who already have the keys in their teams and for others it is not the same thing. But really adversity, working hard, being consistent in that to perform at the highest level against the best players.