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FRA - Bankole and Berkani to provide the turbo boost for Les Bleues
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PARIS (FIBA U17 World Championship for Women) - France coach Julien Egloff will be looking to Ornella Bankole and Lisa Berkani to provide the main thrust of their challenge at the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women next month.
Both players headlined an 18-strong list of candidates revealed by the French Basketball Federation (FFBB), as those selected continue their battle to grab one of the coveted places on offer for the event taking place in the Czech Republic towns of Klatovy and Plezen (28 June-6 July).
The French snatched the last available European berth by edging out Russia 62-61 for fifth place in a nail-biting encounter at the last year's U16 European Championship for Women.
And, it was Berkani who made the game-winning free-throws with three seconds remaining, to seal their place and complete a productive tournament.
A couple of years ago, Arnaud Guppillotte was overseeing French hopes at the 2012 U16 European Championship for Women and had Berkani as a younger player on the roster.
He explained how the 1997 generation was potentially stronger than the 1996 one because of players like Berkani, but also how she needed to evolve and mature.
That is the process the player has been undertaking while at EuroLeague Women side Tango Bourges, learning from the great Celine Dumerc and other talents such as Great Britain star, Johannah Leedham.
One of the most highly-rated young players in France, the guard has even been given a brief taste of action in the French League this season when handed minutes by French senior women's team play-caller Valerie Garnier, in a game against USO Mondeville.
Bankole, meanwhile, played alongside Berkani for Guppillotte and was the standout performer in Bulgaria last year. The forward led her team in points, rebounds and assists to showcase her extensive skill-set.
Another player who will inevitably fly onto the radar is Alix Duchet and she could be one to watch when the action gets underway in the Czech Republic.
She was the third younger player to be utilised two years ago at U16 level and after not playing in 2013 for the national team, she will be eager to shine.
Born in December, Duchet will always be one of the very youngest of the 1997-born stars and yet has been causing some huge excitement due to her passing and ball handling skills, as well as her composure during crunch time.
However, while France certainly have some talented players, they will certainly have to step up after being humbled 73-45 by neighbours Spain in the final of the Guadalajara Tournament last month.
France will play against China, Mali and USA in Group D.
France full preliminary roster for 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women: Fleur Alfonso (Nantes), Alix Duchet (Le Coteau Basket), Manon Machal (Etoile de Voiron), Lisa Berkani (Bourges), Chloe Mantelin (Bourges), Pauline Labrouche (Basket Landes), Margot Bienvenu (Landes/CFBB), Francesca Dorby (CS Vauclinios/CFBB), Perrine Fugier (Lattes Montpellier), Euzhann Lerandy (Bourges), Maeve Djaldi Abdi (Toulouse), Alexandrine Obouh Fegue (Bourges/CFBB), Prescilla Lezin (Lyon), Ornella Bankole (Chalon sur Saone/CFBB), Elise Cammas (Lattes Montpellier), Alexia Chartereau (Al Gerland Mouche Lyon/CFBB), Manon Boehrer (Strasbourg)