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Canada team to beat – Collet

It’s Canada, not France.

French national coach Vincent Collet thinks that Canada, not them, should be the favorites in the Manila leg of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) set July 5-10 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

“They’re young, strong, and have several NBA players in the team,” said Collet, in hopes of veering away from that tag as favorites to win the event and qualify to next month’s Rio Olympics.

The national team of France arrived past midnight Friday and as early as when the groupings were announced last year, the squad known by its moniker ‘Les Bleus’ was tagged ‘team to beat’ in this tournament.

Ranked by FIBA No. 5 in the world, France will have Tony Parker leading the campaign for a shot at playing in the Summer Games, the same guy who has led the San Antonio Spurs to four NBA titles in the last 14 years.

Aside from the 34-year-old Parker, France will likewise have 6-foot-8 veteran forward Boris Diaw – also of the Spurs – and 6-foot-5 guard Nando de Colo, a former NBA campaigner.

France’s roster also has 6-foot-8 forward Nicolas Batum, but the Charlotte Hornets star was not with the team when it arrived yesterday.

In comparison, Canada’s roster boasts of three NBA players in Corey Joseph of the Toronto Raptors, Anthony Bennett – a former NBA No. 1 overall pick – and 6-foot-11 center Tristan Thompson, a key contributor for the newly crowned NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Nevertheless, Collet said that like the other five teams in the OQT, the former European basketball champion will be aiming for that lone Olympic berth, saying: “We want to go to Rio.”

“I hope we’ll have fun and try to do our best to qualify for the Olympics. I can’t wait to meet them (Filipino basketball fans), and enjoy my time here. I am very happy to be here,” said Parker.